Scotland 1-1 Norway: Hosts progress through to World Cup despite late sucker-punch
Ref.: Michał Listkiewicz
L 1: Wojciech Rudy
L 2: Andrzej Libich
Written by: kaltz
¹ RSSSF operate with an attendance figure of 51,537
Since successive away defeats to Yugoslavia and France had put in question Scottish World Cup participation, this was their chance at putting the record straight: Avoid defeat, and off to Italia ’90 you go. Simple as. Scotland had a two points advantage on the French, but with the latter’s final game coming up three days later, the Scottish would have to expect Cyprus to return empty-handed from Paris. A single point, though, and Scotland are through no matter what happens later. They had overcome the Norwegians in both teams’ opening qualifier, 2-1 in Oslo, and with the visitors having little but pride to play for, another win for the Scottish, who were strong on home soil, with two wins and that draw against Yugoslavia so far in the qualification, did not seem unlikely.
Scotland team news
Just needing a single point in order to make their passage through to the World Cup next year, Scotland supremo Andy Roxburgh needed to put faith in some players who had so far been peripheral in the ongoing qualification. The matchday programme had listed 18 players, but there was ultimately no space in the final squad of 16 for either of Steve Nicol (Liverpool, possibly injured, as he had had to come off at half-time during their league defeat at QPR the previous weekend, and Nicol would not appear again until medio December) or Stuart McCall (Everton). The latter had not featured in any of the qualifiers hitherto.
Scotland had three ever-presents so far in defenders Maurice Malpas and Alex McLeish, as well as in midfielder Paul McStay. The latter had started the qualification brilliantly, but had perhaps faded somewhat. Scotland had shipped six goals from their two previous qualifiers, losing in both Yugoslavia and France, and perhaps were they not overly confident coming into this fixture. They’d won 2-1 in Norway on the opening day of qualification, and eight of the players who had started back then were still available to Roxburgh. Their greatest loss was perhaps Richard Gough, who had performed admirably in the right-back position in four out of six previous qualifiers, and in the centre of defence in the loss in Paris. On a more positive note, they could welcome back Willie Miller, who had missed out on the trip to France.
An interesting, if surprising, squad inclusion was left winger Davie Cooper, a veteran aged 33. He was obviously famous for his 12 year long career with Glasgow giants Rangers, but had switched to Motherwell ahead of the current season. Scotland had seemingly struggled to identify the ideal man for the left wing berth, though two and a half years had passed since Coopers previous cap. Was his return a hint of desperation on Roxburgh’s behalf? Pat Nevin was also available, capable of performing on either flank. His one appearance in the ongoing qualification had come in the 2-1 home win against Cyprus.
Norway team news
Whilst the Scottish had been presenting an 18 player strong squad for the matchday programme, there was a further player in the article on visiting Norway. Once 19 was narrowed down to fit the allowed quota for the matchday squad, the following players had been axed: Defenders Pål Lydersen (Start) and Rune Tangen (Moss), midfielder Sverre Brandhaug (Rosenborg), and also striker Jørn Andersen of Eintracht Frankfurt. The latter had been given an opportunity to excel in Norway’s two most recent qualifiers, and it is probably fair to say that he failed to make the most of it. He could perhaps be out of favour with the management team. This prompted Ingvar Stadheim to call upon Viking forward Alf Kåre Tveit for a possible international debut, making him part of the 16 man strong contingent. As for Andersen, he was currently on eight goals in the West German topflight, and it did perhaps seem odd that a relatively lowly ranked team internationally such as Norway could afford to leave him out of the reckoning.
Right-back Gunnar Halle had been sent off for two bookable offences in Yugoslavia, so he was serving his suspension for this game. This could’ve left them somewhat short on full-backs, though Molde’s Hugo Hansen was no stranger to this level, having made his international bow as a 19 year old in a 3-1 friendly away loss to Romania in 1986. He had 11 caps to his name, although six of these were Olympic qualifiers. Norway were one of only a handful few European teams who considered Olympic team matches to be official, and included in player statistics on par with full internationals.
Norway had been in Kuwait towards the end of October, and in a friendly against the hosts they’d drawn 2-2, seeing two young midfielders in Dag Riisnæs (Kongsvinger) and Lars Bohinen (Vålerenga) make their debuts. In addition to that, Frigg midfield man Bent Skammelsrud had won only his second cap. All three were included for the trip to Glasgow. This left out players such as said Brandhaug, Ørjan Berg and Kjetil Osvold, who had all played substantial roles in the qualification. Add to that the absence of Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen through suspension (two yellow cards), the left-sided man who had enjoyed some fine performances recently, and also regular right-sided midfielder Karl-Petter Løken, and you realized that major changes were unavoidable.
With Tveit a possible debutant, the same would apply for centre-back Jan Halvor Halvorsen, who had come into the squad. He was currently plying his trade in the West German second Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin, where he was a first team regular. The 26 year old was another aerially strong player, but he would have to fight it out with regulars Rune Bratseth and Terje Kojedal, and possibly even Erland Johnsen, for game time.
Barring an unlikely slip-up from France at home to Cyprus, Norway would finish fourth in the table regardless of the outcome here. They could play without a whole lot of pressure. Would this prove helpful?
Michał Listkiewicz is 36 years of age and comes from Warsaw. This is his sixth international assignment, having made his debut back in 1985 in the Paris World Cup qualifier between France and Luxembourg (6-0). He had since officiated once in qualification for the 1988 European Championships, namely the 1987 clash between the Soviet Union and Iceland in Simferopol (2-0). This Hampden affair was Listkiewicz’ second game of the ongoing qualification, after his 1988 Group 1 task in Sofia between neighbours Bulgaria and Romania (1-3). The Pole was generally thought of as a fine referee, and he had even been honoured with participation in the 1988 Olympic games in South Korea, where his one match as referee had been the group stage meeting between Australia and Nigeria (1-0). At club level, Listkiewicz had made his continental debut in charge of the 1984 UEFA Cup first round, second leg meeting in Helsinki between HJK and Dinamo Minsk (0-6).
Eight previous clashes had ended with six Scotland wins, a draw and a single Norway victory. That latter had occured so far back as in 1963, when they’d triumphed 4-3 in a home friendly. This was the fourth time that they would lock horns in a qualifier, and Scotland had won all three previous such meetings: Twice ahead of the 1980 European Championships, and then in Oslo at the start of this campaign. Thus, the Scottish had enjoyed five successive wins, something which they would hope favoured them coming into this encounter. No player in either camp from their previous Glasgow meeting 11 years earlier was representing their country on this occasion.
Hampden Park is about as iconic as it gets. Scotland’s national team stadium has been their home for 83 years and counting, and with the prospect of World Cup qualification on the horizon, it is jam-packed for the occasion.
|1 Jim Leighton||31||Manchester United|
|2 Dave MacPherson||25||Hearts|
|3 Maurice Malpas||27||Dundee United|
|4 Roy Aitken (c)||30||Celtic|
|5 Alex McLeish||30||Aberdeen|
|6 Willie Miller||sub 67′||34||Aberdeen|
|7 Mo Johnston||26||Rangers|
|8 Paul McStay||25||Celtic|
|9 Ally McCoist||27||Rangers|
|10 Jim Bett||29||Aberdeen|
|11 Davie Cooper||sub 74′||33||Motherwell|
|x Andy Goram||25||Hibernian|
|x Pat Nevin||26||Everton|
|14 Murdo MacLeod||on 67′||31||Borussia Dortmund|
|x Alan McInally||26||Bayern Munich|
|16 Brian McClair||on 74′||25||Manchester United|
|1 Erik Thorstvedt||27||Tottenham|
|2 Hugo Hansen||22||Molde|
|3 Terje Kojedal||sub 83′||32||Hamarkameratene|
|4 Rune Bratseth (c)||28||Werder Bremen|
|5 Erland Johnsen||22||Bayern München|
|6 Stig Inge Bjørnebye||19||Kongsvinger|
|7 Tom Gulbrandsen||25||Lillestrøm|
|8 Per Egil Ahlsen||31||Brann|
|9 Bent Skammelsrud||sub 59′||23||Frigg|
|10 Gøran Sørloth||27||Rosenborg|
|11 Jan Åge Fjørtoft||22||Rapid Wien|
|x Ola By Rise|
|13 Jan Halvor Halvorsen||on 83′||26||Hertha Berlin|
|x Dag Riisnæs||20||Kongsvinger|
|15 Lars Bohinen||on 59′||20||Vålerenga|
|x Alf Kåre Tveit||22||Viking|
Norway had been given the task to set the game in motion. They would kick off through their front pair of Jan Åge Fjørtoft and Gøran Sørloth, as we had the opportunity to take a look at the respective team selections for the first time.
For the hosts, there were starting roles for both defender Dave MacPherson, who had played at centre-half in his one qualifier so far, the home game against Cyprus, and wide man Davie Cooper, who had got the nod ahead of a player like Murdo MacLeod. There was also a second start of the qualification for Jim Bett, Aberdeen’s lively midfielder, and with Cooper’s inclusion, Bett looked odds-on to feature along the right. The highly experienced Willie Miller was back at the heart of the defence alongside his Aberdeen compatriot Alex McLeish, who had played every single minute of the ongoing qualification.
In the Norwegian camp, there were a few expected changes. Big defender Erland Johnsen had come into the side, but also playing were Kojedal and Bratseth, so they looked to have reverted to a three man strong central defensive unit. They had not played with five at the back since losing 3-0 at home to Poland in a May friendly. That had spelled the end of a six game long run using three centre-backs, a run in which they’d shipped 13 goals. As thought, Hansen slotted in at right-back, while Skammelsrud got his starting role in midfield, possibly as the inside left, and there was also just a second start of the campaign for Tom Gulbrandsen, with the inside right role probably reserved for him.
Scottish tails are up
The early indications are that Scotland wish to take the game to their visitors. They swarm around the Norwegians in midfield, wishing to release their strikers early, and are in general a nuisance all around the park. Not that any of this would’ve come as a surprise to anyone in attendance or to the visiting team, but one could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that the hosts would adapt somewhat cautious tactics given the fact that they’d just lost twice on the road prior to returning home. Scotland display energy, passion and determination, hugely important ingredients in the way they wish to portray themselves, and the early proceedings are much more reminiscent of Scotland from early in the qualification, rather than the team which has been stuttering since the turn of the year.
There’s a high level of anticipation in the air. The Hampden Park audience do their bit in trying to help their heros by raising the noise levels, and they’d already let out their first impression of ‘Flower of Scotland’ two minutes into the game, although it had surely been sung both in and around the stadium in the hours leading up to the eight o’clock kick-off.
While Scotland started the game on the front foot, throwing themselves into tackles, keeping pace in their passing play, and always looking for a team member in an advanced position, this Norwegian team can be something of an unpredictable force. Sure, they’d lost four out of their seven qualifiers, but there was certainly quality within their ranks, even if the eleven as a whole had often been too unevenly assembled. There had been weak spots in each and every selection since the start of the qualification, and they would need to hide their flaws well were they to rattle the hosts on such an important occasion for Scotland. The impression in the opening stages is that they could need to break quickly, though is there enough pace in their team to do so?
The boys in the dark blue tops are clearly in their customary 4-4-2 formation, even if Andy Roxburgh had been led into temptation to set his charges up with five at the back in a December ’88 friendly against Italy. That had been his sole experiment with this much more continental numbers combination, and he’d promptly returned to the prefered British 4-4-2 formation immediately in the wake of that 2-0 loss.
Norway return to five at the back
The away side, though, have indeed cast their usual 4-4-2 formation aside for this occasion, rather returning to the 5-3-2 which indeed their team selection had hinted about. Norway had been lined up with the traditional four man defensive line in their opening qualifier, the home defeat against today’s opponents, but had switched to five at the back for their trip to Paris just two weeks after. They would continue like that through the winter, but once summer had returned to their shores, manager Ingvar Stadheim had opted for the familiar and trusted 4-4-2 once again for the visit of Cyprus in Oslo. Their three man strong central defensive unit on this occasion mirrored the one which had appeared during that 1-0 loss in France nearly 14 months earlier, although there was a slight alteration in their order of appearance. Let’s look into that shortly.
Despite the Scottish grit and passion, Norway do not buckle early on, and they are looking to find their feet and try to build up some kind of passing rhythm of their own. This is where they do struggle, though, as they look so woefully inept in midfield, where two of their three men certainly are playing with volumes of anxiety. Granted, there’s the calm and compsed head of Per Egil Ahlsen at the core of their three, and he’s really given a fine impression since coming into the side for their final three qualifiers, but around him are an erratic Tom Gulbrandsen and an international novice in Bent Skammelsrud who looks like he wants to go hiding. The early Scottish midfield superiority makes it very difficult for a Norway team lacking in pace, much due to the absence of industrious wide left player Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen, to build any kind of pattern themselves. They will try to play it into the feet of either Gøran Sørloth of Jan Åge Fjørtoft up front for the two to hold on to the ball and bring others into play, but whilst the idea is not out of sorts, implementation is lacking.
Rare Thorstvedt uncertainty
One player which Norway have felt they could rely on right through the qualification has been goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt. The big Tottenham custodian has overcome a difficult start to his career in England to begin building a sound reputation, and perhaps is he feeling overly confident when trying to come far off his line in order to claim high balls just before the quarter of an hour mark. He fails twice in succession, sparking a short period of some frantic defending, and a ‘keeper who desperately attempts to redeem himself, even shadowing Scotland’s Aitken outside of the area. Luckily for Thorstvedt, the home skipper fails to lift his cross over Rune Bratseth in the area with the goal exposed, and the visitors can eventually breathe more easily again. When you look to your steady last man for a performance of the highest order, you do not need this kind of antics. Thorstvedt excuses himself to his defenders, well aware that he’s been exposed. Perhaps is it the relaxed nature of the visitors, given the fact that the game has little significance to them other than pride, which is the main cause for this unusual theatre? Thorstvedt turned 27 at the end of October, and this is his 57th international appearance. He sure does not lack in experience.
Introducing: Norway’s defence
In their two qualifiers featuring in a 5-3-2 formation, Norway had been using Hans Hermann Henriksen and Karl-Petter Løken in the right-back position in France and Cyprus respectively. Once they’d reverted to a four man defensive line, Gunnar Halle had made the right-back berth his own, though he was missing on this occasion due to suspension from the red card which he had picked up in Sarajevo last month. Halle had proved a reliable customer in that position, but perhaps was it no coincidence that Stadheim had returned to five across the back in his absence? Slotting into the right-sided defensive role for this game was Hugo Hansen, a 22 year old of Molde, who certainly was showing no fear in the early passages of play. He seemed a very capable replacement for Halle, and was also not afraid to accept an invitation to come forward, even if his task was predominantly a defensive one, attending to Scotland’s left wing man. Hansen seemed more technically equipped than Halle, displaying some nice side-stepping manoeuvres on two separate occasions, and with some midfielders unable to hold on to the ball, Hansen’s capability in doing so was of even greater significance.
To the left in defence, the Norwegians had Kongsvinger teenage full-back Stig Inge Bjørnebye, who was featuring for a third successive qualifier, and who so far had given a very accomplished impression of himself. Bjørnebye was enthusiastic, he played with plenty of energy, and he was strong in the tackle. Despite his tender years, he did not seem to be overawed by any occasion, as journeys to Yugoslavia and now Scotland had proved and was proving. He was also willing to cross the halfway line, and he possessed a particularly fine left foot with which he would swing crosses into the penalty area. He did not have the same level of close control as Hansen across from him, but he carried a certain presence when coming forward nevertheless. Bjørnebye was also capable in the air, and it did look as if Norway in him would have a fine left-sided defender for years to come. He had showed no fear in combat with Dragan Stojković in Sarajevo, and now, up against the highly experienced Scottish captain, he once again acquitted himself well, not giving away any hints of intimidation.
Norway’s central defensive unit seemed perhaps their strongest attribute. Captaining them was one of West German Bundesliga’s finest liberos in 28 year old Rune Bratseth, whose international reputation kept growing. He had been Norway’s libero throughout the qualification, and seemed at ease whether he was playing in a four or five man defensive line. On this occasion, though, Stadheim had put his captain as their left-sided centre-back, with their most experienced team member inside of him in the central one among the three roles: Terje Kojedal. The returnee to domestic league football with Hamarkameratene was a typical hard-as-nail player, though he also had fine ability with the ball at his feet. Kojedal, just as much as Bratseth, was likely to venture forward and into enemy territory, particularly comfortable when looking to pass the ball cleverly with his left foot. The handsome 32 year old had been one of Norway’s more consistent performers right through the qualification.
To complement Bratseth and Kojedal at the back was another physically imposing player: Erland Johnsen. The 22 year old flame-haired centre-back was only sparingly used by his club team Bayern Munich, but he was learning from capable defensive authorities such as Klaus Augenthaler and Hans Pflügler, and on this occasion Johnsen was working to the right among their three-man unit. Whilst he did not have the same level of ability in positioning or tactical awareness as the other two, Johnsen held absolutely no fear, and he would give as good as he got in battle with the Scottish strikers. Physically the visitors appeared well prepared to tackle the hosts.
Scotland’s defensive set-up
Switching attention across to the Scottish backline, there’s the welcome return of 34 year old campaigner Willie Miller, who has captained his country on a number of occasions, even once during the ongoing qualification (the home draw against Yugoslavia). Miller has had some trouble with a recurring knee injury over the past year and a half, which has seen him miss various matches at both club and international levels. Paired alongside his Aberdeen chum Alex McLeish, who himself had indeed captained Scotland once during the current qualification campaign (at home to France), home manager Roxburgh could not have asked for a pair of greater international know-how for such a crucial fixture. Whilst this was McLeish’ 66th appearance in a Scotland shirt, Miller’s number was 65.
The order of appearance among the central defensive pairing was the regular one, at least like we’ve come to know it during this qualification: Miller swept, whilst McLeish was typically thrust into challenges with either of the two Norwegian strikers. They looked to be zonally orientated, though, as McLeish was once again without much doubt operating as the left-sided centre-half. Miller, despite seen taking out depth behind his partner, worked to McLeish’ right. Whilst McLeish would come up for attacking set-pieces, Miller would remain back. Speed was surely no longer Miller’s forte, but his reading of the game and positional sense still made him a big asset to the side.
For whatever reason, Scotland had marauding full-back Richard Gough missing on this occasion. He had been one of their better and more consistent performers right through the qualification, and was a hugely important player for set-pieces at both ends of the pitch. Replacing the Stockholm born defender was Hearts’ giant centre-back Dave MacPherson, who slotted into the right-back position. This was MacPherson’s second appearance of the qualification, to add to his outing at centre-back during the 2-1 home win against Cyprus in April. Due to the sheer size of the man, he was a huge asset in the air, though he did not seem as comfortable in coming forward as the player which he had replaced.
To the left in defence, Scotland had one of their more reliable performers in the elegantly two-footed Maurice Malpas. 27 years of age by now, the Dundee United defender had been a vital ingredient in the national team for four years, and one would usually admire the calm and collected nature of the left-sided defender. It was quite noticeable how he would use either foot in passing or crossing with natural ease, and he was well capable of coming forward and assist inside the opposition’s half. In fact, it would appear that Roxburgh demanded this from his full-backs, and Malpas was clearly a more natural player coming forward than MacPherson, the latter much more used to a central defensive task.
We see the first truly purposeful attack of the game just after the 17 minute mark. Norway have tried to build up patiently, again playing it into the feet of one of their strikers, Sørloth on this occasion, who in turn would bring Hansen into play down the right hand side. However, the full-back loses possession when he comes under pressure, and Scotland can mount a fine counter-attack. Jim Bett arrives on the ball in the centre of the pitch, spotting Maurice Johnston making a fine run to his advanced left. Johnston receives the ball, takes it inside when he arrives around the penalty area, and eventually finds his striker partner Ally McCoist, via a little flick from the arriving Bett. Unfortunately, McCoist is more or less with his back to goal inside the area, even if he does not have a Norwegian defender in his immediate vicinity, due to the rapid nature of the Scottish attack. Rather than take an extra touch to compose himself, he spins quickly and fires a half-hearted left-footed effort straight into the arms of Thorstvedt from 14 yards out. Was this the way to breach the visitors, perhaps? Luring them higher into the pitch, and then hitting them on the break?
As the game approaches the halfway stage of the first period, Norway are seemingly coming into it a little more. They have managed to push their entire team somewhat higher, and the frenetic Scottish pressure in midfield has momentarily relented. With the game evenly balanced at 0-0, the relative silence from the capacity crowd tells a tale of a nerve-laden stadium. Norway arrive at a left wing corner when Hansen’s deep cross to the far side of the area is headed away by Aitken, though Ahlsen fails to capitalize as his flag-kick goes straight to Leighton.
A look at the two midfields: Norway
In midfield, Norway are numerically superior, originally leading their hosts by three men to two, even if one of their centre-backs will occasionally push forward, contributing to an even greater man advantage. This leads to Scotland compensating by tucking their right-sided midfielder more inside towards central areas, something which Roy Aitken, who is their right hand side midfielder rather than Jim Bett, finds quite natural anyway. That said, the two inside midfielders with the visitors, Gulbrandsen and Skammelsrud, have failed to raise their game from their early struggles, and they continue to play peripheral roles, rather seeing Ahlsen and one from Bratseth or Kojedal take control of possession.
Per Egil Ahlsen of Brann has, like Bjørnebye, come into the side for their final three qualifiers, and his composure appears to be his greatest asset. He is 31 years of age, so his legs do not carry him with great speed, but he is clearly equipped with a fine footballing brain, usually well aware of what will happen in the next few sequences of play. He compensates very well for his slow feet, and his ability of distribution sees him in possession quite often towards the rear of their midfield. Ahlsen is also a set-piece taker, and is quite instrumental in this team.
To Ahlsen’s advanced midfield left is 23 year old Bent Skammelsrud, who is making his third international appearance, but his first in a telling game. He plies his daily trade in the Norwegian second tier with ambitious Oslo club Frigg, and perhaps is the gap up to international level on show as he fails to stamp any kind of mark on proceedings. He seems very lightweight, and also appears intimidated by some of his physically imposing opponents. In the space of six-seven minutes around the halfway point in the first half, he’ll go to ground on three separate occasions, after challenges from MacPherson, McStay and Aitken respectively, and after the latter, he stays down in need of treatment, even if replays show he’d constructed the situation himself by jumping into the Scottish skipper. Skammelsrud appears very one-footed, and clearly favours his left.
Across from Skammelsrud is Lillestrøm’s Tom Gulbrandsen, making his sixth squad appearance of the current qualification, though his only second start. He had come on for a few late minutes thrice, as well as being a non-appearing substitute in Yugoslavia. Gulbrandsen, 25, seems to prefer chasing rather than being in possession, as indications so far have shown that he’s woefully uncomfortable ball at feet, flailing his arms and running in a very tunnel-visioned manner. It is no wonder how the visitors fail to maintain possession in the centre of the park, although both Ahlsen and Bratseth/Kojedal are capable ball players.
Their Scottish equivalent contains four players, where those who had been expecting to see the usual Aitken/McStay partnership in the centre would be disappointed. Roxburgh had once again included the pair in his starting eleven, as per norm in this qualification: both would start for an eighth successive time. Whilst McStay had stayed on the pitch for the full 90 minutes in every game, Aitken had come off during the second half in both of their first two qualifiers.
Roy Aitken, closing in on his 31st birthday, was making his 50th appearance with the Scottish FA’s crest on his chest. Obviously a player of great importance and fine battling pedigree, he was one of the first names on the manager’s note pad when it was team selection time. Aitken had begun in the centre alongside his Celtic mate McStay in each of their seven qualifiers hitherto, though on this occasion he had been shifted out to the right hand side. Scotland had at times struggled for width, perhaps particularly along the left, though with Aitken, once again sporting the captain’s armband, the crowd were unlikely to see a player bent on making it to the byline in order to put crosses in. And that was true, even if he did his best to maintain width along the right, particularly in possession, though he would struggle to make great advance down the right, rather opting to hit a cross from a deeper position. Defensively, as previously touched on, he would tuck inside when the visitors were exerting their numerical midfield advantage. Roxburgh could also not have asked for more in a team leader than the commitment which he would always get from Aitken. It should be mentioned that he had featured wide to the right in midfield also in the Scottish 1989 FA Cup final, when Celtic had won by the only goal of the game to topple their arch-rivals Rangers.
Paul McStay had begun the qualification brilliantly, accepting a lot of responsibility in the centre of the park, and he’d even scored the matchwinning goal in the opposite fixture between these two. He was sound in possession, and he would often make advance ball at feet, looking particularly at home when he could burst into the area. He had only recently turned 25, but this was already McStay’s 41st cap. Roxburgh did not want even to imagine what his midfield would look like without McStay.
Alongside the Celtic man on this occasion was Aberdeen’s Jim Bett. The powerfully built 29 year old almost had a stocky look about him, but he was taller than he appeared, measuring a decent 5ft 11. He’d only played a bit-part role so far in the qualification, coming off in the second half after a stinker of a left-sided midfield performance in the home draw against Yugoslavia, and then coming on during the heavy defeat in France, where he had gone into the central midfield role in Scotland’s late push in a 4-3-3 formation. The Dons fans loved him, though, and he certainly appeared to be more at home through this role in the centre of the pitch. Bett would be the one player whom the others would look to for possession, and dubbing him ‘playmaker’ was not far off the truth for this game; in fact, it seemed accurate. He was, like Malpas, very good with both feet, and he had plenty of energy in his play, copying the enthusiasm from his central midfield partner. This had given the Scottish a big upper hand in the first 15 minutes or so, and there was cause to believe that Bett and McStay would quickly resume dominance in the heart of the pitch. His role in that quick counter to set up McCoist’s opportunity had also been vital.
Whilst Murdo MacLeod had occupied the left-sided midfield position for the two successive away defeats recently, Scotland had failed to identify their ideal man for this role. MacLeod had been the sixth player in six matches to feature there, and now, through the return of 33 year old Davie Cooper, Roxburgh had a seventh player in eight qualifiers to perform along the left. Cooper, a genius during his Rangers days, had not played for the national team since a 2-0 home defeat against Brazil in 1987, and was giving a bit of a see-saw impression so far: Some things he did well, and then he would go on and inexplicably give the ball away next. He would bring width to the team, and Scotland would often look to build down the left hand side, something which saw Cooper frequently involved. His understanding with Malpas behind him did not always appear spotless, though, and the Motherwell man would need to raise his level of quality in order to prove a threat to Hansen.
Both teams featured two strikers each, and their respective roles did not seem too distant from one pair to another. For the hosts, Roxburgh had once again gone with the trusted and familiar constellation of Mo Johnston and Ally McCoist, both now also working together at club level for Rangers after Johnston’s stint in French football with Nantes. The latter had set off like a whirlwind, scoring six goals in Scotland’s five first qualifiers, though he’d failed to score since, even not travelling to Zagreb for the Yugoslavia game due to injury. As for McCoist, he’d perhaps been somewhat more sluggish so far, although he did have a one goal return from his five starts, all of which had come in Scotland’s five last qualifiers.
Whereas McCoist would be a natural poacher through the centre, you would often see more movement from Johnston, who was far from reluctant moving into the channels or even out wide. In fact, from such a position Johnston would carve out the best opportunity of the match so far when on 24 minutes he accepted Cooper’s pass in the left hand channel, running towards the byline before hitting a low cross into the centre for McCoist to connect with his right foot. The effort from point blank range was diverted away from goal by Thorstvedt’s leg, saving a certain goal.
For the visitors, Jan Åge Fjørtoft, 22, was making his sixth start, the same as his nearly five year older partner up top, Gøran Sørloth. They had scored two and three goals during the qualification respectively, though Fjørtoft seemed by far the more enthusiastic of the two, certainly in terms of his movement. Sørloth would at times be playing with his back to goal, being the target for high balls up from the back, although he was not particularly tall for a centre-forward. He did look to have fine vision, though, and would often know the whereabouts of his team mates, being good at bringing others into play.
Fjørtoft was typically the one of them making runs into the channels, and whilst he had often been appearing towards left sided areas as long as Jakobsen was a feature in the team, he was now working more towards the right, thus bringing him into battles with McLeish. The pair had coincidentally met in this season’s UEFA Cup, when Rapid Vienna had knocked Aberdeen out in the first round on the away goals’ rule. Fjørtoft had struck the only goal in the meeting in the Austrian capital. One would not often see direct combinations between the front two, but at least they did not occupy each other’s territory. Fjørtoft had still not completely got rid of his ridiculous knack of going to ground in order to try and con the referee into giving him free-kicks, even if it had happened with greater frequency at the start of the qualification than it did now.
McCoist again the dangerman
There’s not a whole lot of natural pauses in this first half, and the pace has been picking up again after a few minutes where the hosts had no longer been equally as intense in their pressure as before. Right on the half hour, there’s another big chance for McCoist to put Scotland ahead, when he seizes on a poor mistake by Sørloth on the near post, with the striker failing to clear Cooper’s free-kick from the left. McCoist doesn’t have much scope, but he prods goalwards, prompting another legs save from the Norway ‘keeper from close range.
Visitors’ first opportunity
With nothing much to show for in an attacking sense so far in the game, Norway carve out two efforts within the space of 30 seconds next. They have a free-kick around the halfway line, which is hit towards the edge of the area by Hansen. Skammelsrud manages to get his head to the ball, with McLeish arriving late for the challenge, and the ball drops down in the area, bouncing awkwardly for MacPherson, who has Sørloth right behind him. With Leighton coming off his line to try and claim, MacPherson heads the ball into his ‘keeper from close range, something which gives Sørloth an opportunity to react by getting to the rebound. Leighton’s off his line, but Malpas and indeed MacPherson, who ultimately gets the block in to deny Sørloth an equalizer, are able to clear the Scottish lines after they had looked a little edgy. Moments later, Fjørtoft grabs the ball after a poor attempt from Malpas to head clear, and he spins and fires just over goal from inside the area.
Scotland break the deadlock
The half seems to be petering out with no goals to show for, even if the hosts have arrived at a few really fine opportunities, notably through McCoist. The two Scottish strikers are working tirelessly off the ball, making fine runs to try and unsettle the three man strong Norwegian central defensive unit, and this will ultimately pay dividends right before the half-time whistle. A Thorstvedt punt down field is headed back into space by Malpas, something which seems to have caught the Norwegians off-guard. McCoist has cleverly made a run in behind Bratseth and into Kojedal’s blind spot, something which sees him arrive first to the ball after it has bounced twice. Thorstvedt had come racing out from his area, but was beaten to it by the striker, who poked a lob over him and into the back of the net, sparking some wild celebrations among players, management and fans alike.
Referee Listkiewicz, who was having a fine game, blew his whistle for half-time a minute and 26 seconds into time added on, as there had been on-pitch treatment for both Skammelsrud and Aitken. Other than that, there had been precious little reason to add anything to the original 45 minutes.
Deserved lead for the hosts at the break, though with a huge final 45 minutes coming up. Can the Norwegians assist the French by turning the game around, or will the Scottish continue to be in charge after the break?
With the two sets of players back out on the pitch, we can scurry through the teams and ascertain that there have been no changes in personnel. Scotland will kick the second half off, left to right as we look at it, and it happens through their two Celtic midfielders Paul McStay and Roy Aitken.
The French are bound to be either in attendance from the comfort of their homes or listening in, and they won’t be best pleased about that goal right on the stroke of 45 minutes, making their own task of qualifying an impossible one, although two Norway goals in the second half will change that perspective. The goal, incidentally, had been McCoist’s fifth for Scotland in his 19th appearance. Let’s dive into the action and see whether there’s any formational and/or tactical changes since the first half.
Early second half exchanges
The second 45 minutes start off a bit forgivingly, with neither side willing to go the extra mile, but it is a false dawn, as the game will soon resume the fine pace which it had carried for most of the opening half. Both teams are playing with ideally sporting intentions (the only objection would be Fjørtoft’s tendency to try and con the ref into awarding him a couple of free-kicks in the first half), and though some challenges have been rough, there has been no malice between the two sets of players.
Norway continue in their 5-3-2, reluctant to immediately give up on their defensive security, and the hosts are also unchanged in how they line their troops up. It has to be said that the Scottish midfield has had the upper hand, despite their numerical disadvantage, as both McStay and, certainly, Bett are doing their utmost to both put pressure on opponents when Norway are in possession or to maintain pace in their passing game when it is the Scots who are on the ball.
There had been a couple of times during the first half when Norway had lost the ball before they could break out of their own half, either due to sloppy passing or because the Scottish pressure was so intense, and this would happen again nearly eight minutes into the second half, when Kojedal, who has so far probably looked like their most assured defensive player in possession, played it straight into the feet of McStay. The energetic midfield man accepted the invitation and immediately headed for the byline, entering the penalty area to the left. He attempted a low cross into the feet of McCoist, but luckily for the visitors, Bratseth was again well positioned to cut the ball out and give away a Scotland left wing corner. A couple of minutes earlier, some interpassing between Cooper and Bett had led to the latter setting big MacPherson up for a shooting chance from 25 yards. The Scottish right-back struck it well, even if it had cleared the bar by half a yard or so, with Thorstvedt in control.
The Norwegians are still not engaging their midfield in play a whole lot, rather playing it quickly in the direction of either striker, or indeed utilising their wide defenders, with both Hansen and Bjørnebye keen to dart forward. Among their midfield three, Ahlsen continues to give off by far the better impression, as he sits in the centre and acts very composedly every time he’s played into possession. Skammelsrud looks like a passenger at this level, and has had very little to contribute with all game, while Gulbrandsen still displays his peculiar style of running, looking so stressed up every time he is in contact with the ball. However, it had been him who had arrived at the first shooting opportunity after the break, with a duel inside the area making sure the ball would drop kindly for him. He had struck it well on half volley from 15 yards, but he failed to pin it under the crossbar, with the ball clearing Leighton’s goal by less than a yard. It would’ve been a screamer had it gone in, and it would’ve come from a very unlikely source, too.
Scotland go desperately close to increasing their advantage on 57 minutes. Some three minutes earlier, Gulbrandsen had had his and Norway’s second attempt of the second half, even if his shot from 25 yards after he’d been set up by Ahlsen had failed to spark any emotions, lacking in both power and conviction as it rolled harmlessly into the waiting arms of Leighton, but once Bjørnebye, who is having a fine game along the Norwegian left hand side, has obstructed Aitken to the left of the Norwegian penalty area, Cooper can use his precise left foot to guide it into dangerous territory. He does so, and the ball evades McCoist and Hansen on the near post, only to strike an unexpected Johnsen on the edge of the six yard area right in the centre. The ball cannons off the defender and goes over via the crossbar with Thorstvedt beaten. Johnsen had been attending to MacPherson, and he would breathe a big sigh of relief as the ball once again went behind for a Scottish flag kick.
Both teams had had players warm up along the touchline early in the second half, with Murdo MacLeod for Scotland and Lars Bohinen for the visitors both hoping to make an entry. With no truly recognized defender among their substitutes, the Scottish could be looking to MacLeod for defensive cover, even if the original idea might have been him replacing Cooper along the left hand side. It is not like Cooper is having a poor match, but he’s also not exerting much influence, even if it had been his free-kick which had been headed onto his own goal frame by Johnsen. In open play, Cooper doesn’t seem to have the pace to get into good positions for delievery.
However, cruel luck will have it that Willie Miller goes to ground after an accidental clash with Norway’s Hansen well inside Scottish territory after Fjørtoft had tried to release the full-back with a crossfield pass. Miller had arrived to the ball a fraction of a second before Hansen, who had then caught the ageing defensive maestro with his knee. Miller could have had his studs in the grass, creating a twist in his knee and injury to ligaments. It had looked painful when he was being attended to by physio Hugh Allan, although Miller would dust himself off and continue. Alas, it was clear he was in agony, and the eventual substitution was inevitable, even if it only took place nine minutes after the incident with Hansen. Miller had since long been struggling with his knees, and this had hardly made his situation any more favourable.
The visitors will make the first change, though, as the luckless Skammelsrud comes off for Bohinen, with the latter also getting his qualification debut three weeks after his first international appearance during the 2-2 friendly in Kuwait. It will turn out to be a straight swap, and with Skammelsrud out of his depth, it could also not turn much worse for the Norwegians. Bohinen, 20, looks raw, but he seems to play with more enthusiasm than his predecessor, and at least he will add some further energy to their midfield. He is also less afraid to hold on to the ball.
Opportunities at either end
On 62 minutes, Scotland once again come desperately close to increasing their lead. Cooper had played a low cross from a deep position along the left, and it had evaded everybody along the fringes of the penalty area, until McCoist picked it up to the right of centre. He took a touch to improve his angle, and seemed to be tripped by a combination of Bjørnebye and Bratseth just inside the area as he was trying to steady himself. The ball broke for his strike partner Johnston, though, who hit it low first time with his right foot, only to see big Thorstvedt dive down and get enough of a palm to it to just turn it beyond the upright and away for a Scotland right wing corner. Massive opportunity, and the visitors can once again thank their in-form ‘keeper for making sure they’re still in the game.
A minute and a half after Thorstvedt’s save, Fjørtoft goes mightily close down the other end. The lively Norway striker had been played into possession by Kojedal, and with Miller, still feeling the effects of the hit to his right knee, backing off him, he can take a few steps inside from the left hand channel and strike from 24 yards. The shot doesn’t carry a lot of power, but Fjørtoft had rather gone for precision, and he would strike it low against the upright with Leighton failing to reach it, the ball cannoning off the post and back into play, with the Scottish defence mopping up. Fjørtoft looked to have more or less switched sides with his forward partner Sørloth in the second half, with the latter now appearing more towards the right, and Fjørtoft rather operating in more familiar central left areas.
Miller comes off
With the stricken Miller clearly unable to continue, Scotland struggle to get the substitution made, as Norway pile on the pressure, and the ball does not exit play for several minutes. There had been an opportunity for Leighton to kick it into touch once McLeish had mopped up in the area after Bohinen had tried a one-two on the edge of the box with Gulbrandsen, but perhaps had the change not seemed so imminent. Only when the ‘keeper was played the ball back to him by Malpas would Leighton kick it out of play. Miller could finally hobble off midway through the half, and he was replaced by MacLeod. Whilst this did not appear to be a like for like replacement, it should be stressed that MacLeod had been featuring as a libero on several occasions for his club side in West Germany, and so it happened that he indeed slotted into the position left vacant by Miller’s exit.
MacLeod didn’t instinctively seem to be a fit as a withdrawn, right-sided centre-half, but that is where he slotted in, and his years of experience at both club and international levels would stand him in good stead. As mentioned, he had featured at libero for Borussia Dortmund, and like Miller, he would let McLeish be the one who first and foremost challenged the Norwegian strikers, and it would be Sørloth coming into the rock-hard, flame-haired centre-back’s territory the most. MacLeod would look to instigate from the back.
Thorstvedt brought into action again
Scotland conjure up yet another fine opportunity on 72 minutes, much due to the perseverance of Maurice Malpas, who is having a very sound game from his left-back position. He wins a challenge for the ball against Hansen 15 yards inside the Norwegian half after a crossfield pass from Fjørtoft, and then he goes on to beat Johnsen in another 50/50 challenge immediately after, to set himself up for a cross from the left. He hits it low towards the edge of the area, where Johnston meets it with an outstretched leg, yet again forcing Thorstvedt into action: The ‘keeper needs to throw himself to his left once more, and this time he manages to hold on to the ball. The big Spurs stopper has really earnt his wages on this performance. On another day, this latest effort could’ve crept in.
Substitutions and implications
There is a third player substitution of the evening when the hosts opt to withdraw Davie Cooper upon his return to the national team. It had been likely that he’d have been substituted for MacLeod earlier had Miller’s injury not occurred, though on 74 minutes, the ageing wing man’s time was up. It had been a decent if not highly prolific comeback for Cooper, who was replaced by Manchester United’s Brian McClair. The 25 year old former Celtic man had enjoyed a fine second half in midfield during their win in Oslo at the start of the qualification, and was likewise thrust into the midfield area again here, albeit towards the left hand side rather than as the most advanced player in a diamond. At the same time, Roxburgh had decided to swap positions for Aitken and Bett, something which perhaps appeared a little strange given how well particularly Bett had done in the engine room. Perhaps did the home boss feel the need to sure things up a little defensively?
Not a lot is happening in terms of action either end of the pitch in the ensuing few minutes. The Scottish are clearly content with what they’ve got, and they play with caution, seeing substitute McClair tuck in from his left-sided midfield position, something which makes them lose the width dimension along that flank. Opposite from him, Bett has gone slightly anonymous towards the right hand side; being less involved appears not to suit him well. McStay has definitely shown in glimpses why his valuation and reputation are so high, but all in all he, too, has had more of an average kind of game, probably outshone by Bett. Aitken has come into the left side of centre, and as you’d expect, he’s sitting relatively deep. There’s not much adventure left in the hosts at this stage. McClair’s crossfield run to try and reach MacPherson’s ball up from the right-back position results in him accidentally scything Kojedal down, something which ultimately results in the big Norway defender having to go off with an injury to his right thigh.
Losing Kojedal could potentially spell disaster for the Norwegians, as he is one of their main men, although this late in the game it won’t have that much of an effect. Kojedal had been the central one among their three centre-backs, and it is into this position their second and final substitute will be thrust. The visitors’ latest acquisition is another player from the second Bundesliga in West Germany: Hertha Berlin’s Jan Halvor Halvorsen is 26 years of age, and does indeed make his full international debut. He becomes the 26th player to appear over Norway’s eight qualifiers. Scotland’s number, incidentally, is 28. At 6ft 1, he is yet another strapping centre-back, something which the Norwegians do not appear to be in short supply of.
A counter to finish visitors off?
The home fans are buoyant as they realize just how close Scotland now are to making it through to a fifth successive World Cup. The noise levels inside Hampden Park are massive, and whilst there had been further renditions of ‘Flower of Scotland’ earlier, the supporters are now just building up towards a crescendo of sound. There is little in the Norwegians’ way of attack which indicates much of a threat to the slender Scottish lead, and when Hansen, once again having cleverly side-stepped a Scottish player, misplaces a pass straight into the feet of McClair, the hosts can launch a counter-attack with just two minutes left on the clock. McClair feeds Johnston to the left, and the substitute midfielder makes a run through the centre, where the visitors now are exposed, as both Johnsen and Bratseth are inside the Scottish half of the pitch. McClair receives a return pass from Johnston, and whilst all he really needs to do is dart past sole defender Bjørnebye, using his momentum, he decides to pass it inside to the onrushing Aitken. This takes the sting out of the counter, and ultimately Thorstvedt can gather a poor cross from the right.
Norway shock Scotland in injury time
When referee Listkiewicz signals his whistle for a foul from McCoist on Johnsen just inside the Norwegian half of the pitch 47 seconds into time added on, the home fans think for a moment this is the call to end the game. However, there’s still a few seconds left, something which is sufficient for the visitors to hit an unlikely equalizer, and it will even happen through the most unlikely of sources. Fjørtoft’s strike against the post earlier in the half apart, they had failed to build much attacking momentum, and Scotland’s 1-0 lead had not looked threatened inside the final few minutes. Once Bohinen has passed the ball sideways, through the legs of McStay a few yards inside the Scottish half, big defender Johnsen arrives on the ball and for whatever reason opts to shoot from 45 yards. Whilst it had been an inexplicable decision to do so in the first place, what happens next is even more of a mystery, with Leighton fumbling the ball over the goalline and into the back of the net! Norway have an equalizer, something which completely stuns everyone present, with Hampden Park going silent. If the French are watching, they could be forgiven for eyeing a late opportunity for a Norwegian comeback win.
It isn’t to be, however, as the game barely has time to restart before it is all over. Leighton has time to pick up a McClair backpass, and that is it, two minutes and seven seconds into additional time. It was time for Hampden Park to errupt with emotions, as the fans could finally celebrate actual World Cup qualification.
Scotland dominate the first half, using ingredients such as physique and tempo, unsettling the visitors. However, Thorstvedt is in irresistable mood, and saves two close range efforts from danger man McCoist. Right on the stroke of half-time, though, it is the Scottish striker who has the last laugh, as he latches on to a Malpas header to lob beyond the ‘keeper and into the back of the net. Scotland still conjure up chances after the break, but again the big man between the sticks keeps the scores down, as he makes further stops, and down the other end, Fjørtoft sees a shot from distance cannon off the post. The hosts appear to be heading for a deserved 1-0 win when Johnsen pops up with an unlikely effort from 45 yards in the second minute of time added on. It is a giant howler from Leighton as the ball ends up in the back of the net, but no one inside the stadium cares with the final whistle sounding shortly after: Scotland are through to Italia ’90. Cue celebrations in the streets of Glasgow and all around Scotland.
1 Leighton 6.6
this game will always come back to hunt him for his injury time error which led to the equalizer. Didn’t have a whole lot to do until then, though he’d given a couple of hints of uncertainty
2 MacPherson 7.0
replaces Gough very well, although he is not too productive inside the opponents’ half. A big aerial presence in both boxes, and makes a big block to deny Sørloth in the first half
3 Malpas 7.5
a highly competent performance along the left hand side, where he stood up well defensively to Hansen, as well as being an excellent contributor coming forward. So much commitment and desire, and collected an assist for the goal
4 Aitken 7.1
unselfishly sacrificed himself to the cause of the team. Perhaps not best suited to a wide right role, but battled well, even if he met his match in Norway’s teenage full-back. Big shift defensively when called upon
5 McLeish 7.2
accepted challenges with both Norwegian strikers, and gave more than he got. As always so strong in the air, and added an extra threat coming up for set-pieces
6 Miller 6.9
not so much in battle, sweeps behind McLeish, and obviously positions himself impeccably. Only sparingly engages in build-ups. Needs to come off a few minutes after taking a blow to his right knee
(14 MacLeod –
took up the sweeping task upon his entrance, and didn’t look out of place. Wisely, he would also leave challenges to his central defensive partner)
7 Johnston 7.1
does all the “dirty” work in the channels, and it is an important job. Runs himself into the ground; lurks on the edge of the Norwegian defence, and creates opportunities for McCoist. Has two efforts saved, too. Still not as visible as his strike partner
8 McStay 6.9
clearly less visible than his midfield compatriot, but again showed his ability in bursting into the area on the ball, attempting to set others up. Maintained defensive composure
9 McCoist 7.4
despite difficult working conditions against three big centre-backs, McCoist gave a wonderfully committed display in which he always sniffed an opportunity on the shoulders of his opponents. Cool finish for the goal, and saw Thorstvedt deny him on further occasions
10 Bett 7.5
the Scottish playmaker. Distributed from midfield, and had bundles of energy in his display which had been absent in their midfield for a while. Also directed a couple of counters, and popped up with some important backpasses late on
11 Cooper 6.7
offers width along the left, but mixed fortunes in open play as he struggles to win ground. A few misplaced passes, but also some decent set-piece delievery. Tired before coming off
(16 McClair –
comes in to the left in midfield, but will work somewhat more defensively than his predecessor and he’ll also make runs inside through the centre attack-wise)
1 Thorstvedt 7.6
several fine stops to prevent further goals from the hosts, and commanded his area well from set-pieces. Fortunate to have the crossbar on his side in the second half, but definitely a point-saving performance
2 Hansen 7.1
displayed some excellent close control, and positioned himself well in not letting Cooper pass him on the outside. Gave possession away too cheaply a couple of times, but provided an outlet along the right hand side
3 Kojedal 7.2
a couple of scything challenges along the ground on both Scottish strikers, and wins well in the air. Had probably lost sight of McCoist for the goal. Accidentally injured late on
(16 Halvorsen –
very committed cameo in which he proves his worth in challenges, particularly in the air)
4 Bratseth 7.3
positioning is second to none, and tidies up any mistake further up the pitch through his pace. As strong in the air as Kojedal, and contributive in coming forward
5 Johnsen 7.1
kept it simple, challenged strongly, and was thrust into the Scottish half of the pitch for the final few minutes. Would ultimately get the equalizer through his unlikely effort in injury time
6 Bjørnebye 7.4
a big performance against an experienced player such as Aitken, whom he stood up well to both coming forward and particularly inside his own half. A strong left foot, committed and focused
7 Gulbrandsen 6.4
a whole lot of running inbetween, though he did have a couple of second half efforts, even if neither duly worried Leighton. Looked very uncomfortable in possession
8 Ahlsen 7.0
easily the more composed player in the Norwegian midfield, and sprayed passes right and left. Also important through his set-piece delieveries, but unable to move his feet quickly
9 Skammelsrud 5.8
desperately out of his depth: very insecure, was a soft touch, and contributed nothing to progress from midfield
(15 Bohinen 6.7
a step up from the player he replaced, even if he could not dominate midfield. Dared to hold on to the ball, but perhaps somewhat tunnel-visioned)
10 Sørloth 6.7
plenty of endeavour, but not so much end-product. Did have that blocked first half effort, but other than that had to accept a lot of duels, and his hold-up play was perhaps not quite up to standards this time
11 Fjørtoft 7.0
more energetic than his strike partner, and unlucky to see his second half shot come back off the post. Other than that no big goal threat, but worked tirelessly in the channels. Annoyingly went down looking to con the referee again