Intense battle ends all square after first half goals
It was time for Yugoslavia to make their entry in the World Cup qualification, and they were doing so in possibly the most difficult away fixture of them all: Scotland in Glasgow. There must have been a whole lot of anticipation ahead of this match, in both camps, as the Scottish had already opened their account with an away win: 2-1 against Norway. This, though, was clearly a different proposition: Up against a Yugoslavian side brimming with quality. The Hampden Park visitors arrived on the back of summer friendly away wins in Switzerland and Spain, and surely they were looking to kick-start their campaign with two points. Or at least a draw. The hosts must have been aware of the daunting task ahead of them, and so would possibly consider even a dropped home point a reasonable achievement, especially in light of their fine win in Oslo.
It was still early days, but the table read as follows:
Scotland team news
Since the win in Oslo, Scotland had lost defender Gary Gillespie to injury. He had been one of the better players in the 2-1 win, and it was fortunate to manager Roxburgh that he had available to him again big Rangers defender Richard Gough. He would seem the natural player to replace Gillespie at right-back. Gillespie had gone off during Liverpool’s surprise 1-0 league loss on the astro turf in Luton earlier in the month, and would remain ineligible for several months.
The Scotland boss had gathered 20 players in a pre-selection of the matchday squad, and naturally four players would need to be axed in time for the game. Apart from Gillespie’s injury, Roxburgh had no new such concerns, perhaps with the exception of midfielder Ian Durrant, who had made a second half substitute appearance last time around, though the manager chose to leave goalkeeper Jim Leighton, who had featured in Norway, out of his eventual squad of 16. The three other players who were told that they would not be present at Hampden Park were Dundee United defender David Narey, Manchester United midfield man Gordon Strachan, and Everton’s aerially strong striker Graeme Sharp.
Into the squad since Norway had come goalkeeper Bryan Gunn of Norwich, who were going well in the English first division, wide midfielder Jim Bett of Aberdeen, who certainly was no novice at this level with 19 previous caps, striker Ally McCoist of Rangers, Coventry’s versatile attacking man David Speedie, and said Gough.
With Scotland pretty much a traditional 4-4-2 unit, there were perhaps just a couple of positions in the starting eleven which seemed debatable: The wide midfield roles. In Oslo, Scotland had started with young forward Kevin Gallacher wide to the right, whilst the dependable Steve Nicol had been placed out on the left hand side. The latter certainly again aspired to a starting berth, and the same could be said for the returning Jim Bett, as well as Gallacher. Or could perhaps Speedie be a surprise inclusion this time around?
Yugoslavia team news
Yugoslavia manager Ivica Osim had also picked an original squad which would need some axing: 18 men was two too many. This was Osim’s first qualification squad for the ’90 World Cup, and in such a difficult away fixture he would need to get his decisions right. Eventually, he would leave out striker Dragiša Binić, who was doing well in the second tier of French football with Brest, and the often exciting Semir Tuce, an attacking wide player of Velež Mostar.
Yugoslavia had participated in the Olympics the previous month, and two losses and a win had made sure they did not advance beyond the group stage. Still, no less than seven players from the Olympics roster were found also in this their first World Cup qualification squad: Defenders Davor Jozić, Vujadin Stanojković and Predrag Spasić, midfielders Srečko Katanec, Refik Šabanadžović and Dragan Stojković, as well as wide man Dragoljub Brnović.
Since their most recent friendly, last month’s impressive 2-1 win in Spain, six of the players who featured remained in the squad. However, the manager still seemed to have a certain emphasis with foreign players, as they counted nine compared to the seven who were based in the domestic league. From the domestic scene there were three each from the two major Belgrade clubs, whilst Vardar of Skopje had the other. Undoubtedly, it was a squad brimming with talent and capacity, and on paper they certainly had what it would take to kickstart their qualification campaign with a positive result.
Formation wise, they’d been in something of a rare 3-6-1 edition in Spain, where captain Zlatko Vujović had needed to undertake defensive duties to the extent that he could not be judged as an outright striker. True, he would often feature somewhat wide to the left, something which he had also done in Oviedo. Again, he was a more than likely starter, possibly with Borislav Cvetković in the striker’s role, like the Ascoli based man had held in Spain.
Defensively and in midfield, too, the Yugoslavs seemed well equipped, with players of such calibre as Davor Jozić and Faruk Hadžibegić (defence), as well as Mehmed Baždarević and Dragan Stojković (midfield). Their starting eleven would contain an abundance of talent. One notable absentee, though, was Bordeaux defender Zoran Vujović, who was in and out of his club team early in the 1988/89 season, possibly due to injury. He had featured for Bordeaux during their 5-0 win against Nantes four days earlier, and would also appear in the 1-1 draw at Cannes when they were next in league action ten days after this qualifier. On that occasion, he was up against his twin brother Zlatko, who had moved to Cannes ahead of the 1988/89 season, and thus splitting their career trajectories for the very first time.
The man in black was 39 year old and from West Germany. Karl-Heinz Tritschler had been on the circuit for an impressive seven and a half years already, since his debut back in 1982 during a Switzerland v Portugal friendly. He had been awarded three qualifiers ahead of the 1986 World Cup: Finland v Northern Ireland (1-0), France v Bulgaria (1-0) and England v Romania (1-1), and had also overseen three qualifiers for two different European Championships. The match appeared to be in very capable hands.
Tritschler’s most recent international had been Italy’s surprise 1-0 home loss against Wales just before the European Championships four and a half months earlier. This was indeed his very first appearance with either of these two teams in what was his 12th international over all.
Oddly, the two nations had never before crossed paths in any qualification, although they had met on two separate occasions in World Cup tournaments: They’d drawn 1-1 both in Sweden ’58 and in West Germany ’74. Yugoslavia had advanced after these group stage meetings on both occasions. Scotland, though, were still undefeated from a total of six encounters between them. The record in their favour read 2-4-0 since their inaugural meeting in Belgrade in a 1955 friendly (2-2).
The most recent head to head between the pair had happened on the very same stadium as tonight, just over four years earlier, when Scotland had comprehensively outclassed their opponents: 6-1 sounded the final score. Of the players who had featured that night, six Scots remained (Nicol, McLeish, Miller, McStay, Johnston (one goal) and Bett), as well as two Yugoslavs: the debuting Davor Jozić and Ljubomir Radanović, who had worn the captain’s armband on that occasion.
It is difficult to say much about the conditions based on video evidence from the game, but it certainly appears to be blustery, and especially the second half seems to have relatively strong winds behind the home side.
|1 Andy Goram||24||Hibernian|
|2 Richard Gough||26||Rangers|
|3 Maurice Malpas||26||Dundee United|
|4 Steve Nicol||26||Liverpool|
|5 Alex McLeish||29||Aberdeen|
|6 Willie Miller (c)||33||Aberdeen|
|7 Paul McStay||23||Celtic|
|8 Roy Aitken||sub 70′||29||Celtic|
|9 Mo Johnston||25||Nantes|
|10 Brian McClair||24||Manchester United|
|11 Jim Bett||sub 55′||28||Aberdeen|
|12 Bryan Gunn||24||Norwich|
|13 Murdo MacLeod||30||Borussia Dortmund|
|14 David Speedie||on 70′||28||Coventry|
|15 Ally McCoist||on 55′, 74′||26||Rangers|
|16 Kevin Gallacher||21||Dundee United|
|1 Tomislav Ivković||28||Wiener SC|
|2 Vujadin Stanojković||25||Vardar Skopje|
|3 Predrag Spasić||sub 83′||23||Partizan Beograd|
|4 Davor Jozić||35′||28||Cesena|
|5 Faruk Hadžibegić||31||Sochaux|
|6 Ljubomir Radanović||28||Standard Liège|
|7 Dragan Stojković||23||Crvena Zvezda|
|8 Srečko Katanec||79′||25||Stuttgart|
|9 Borislav Cvetković||sub 90′||26||Ascoli|
|10 Mehmed Baždarević||28||Sochaux|
|11 Zlatko Vujović (c)||30||Cannes|
|12 Fahrudin Omerović||27||Partizan Beograd|
|13 Goran Jurić||25||Crvena Zvezda|
|14 Dragoljub Brnović||on 83′||24||Partizan Beograd|
|15 Refik Šabanadžović||on 90′||23||Crvena Zvezda|
|16 Milan Janković||28||Anderlecht|
Unfortunately, we are again without images from any pre-match scenes as well as the kick-off, and we arrive with around four minutes gone on the clock by the time Scotland midfielder Paul McStay takes aim from a right wing corner.
Going through the two line-ups reveals a home eleven which is pretty much identical to what could’ve been expected beforehand, perhaps with the exception of Jim Bett’s inclusion wide in midfield, where he’s taken over from hotshot Kevin Gallacher, who had had a fine game in Scotland’s first qualifier. Other than that, the hosts are pretty much according to pre-match belief.
As for the visiting side, there’s hardly any major surprises there, too, based on the knowledge of which 16 players were in the matchday squad. Perhaps one could’ve expected to see midfield man Milan Janković, but the former Real Madrid player, now with Brussels club Anderlecht, was among the five Yugoslavs on the substitutes’ bench. One question, though, was who Osim had prefered at libero: Hadžibegić or Jozić? They were both starters. So too was the massively exciting Dragan Stojković in midfield, where he seemed to be one of three inclusions alongside Katanec and the always performing Baždarević.
The early sequences of play indicate what is at stake. Neither side appears willing to relinquish anything in terms of initiative to the opponent, and there’s some ferocious battles for possession. Both teams seem quite direct, although they opt for different means of approach: Scotland are certainly not afraid of hoisting long balls in the forward direction, where in particular Johnston among the strikers is keen on working the channels, while the Yugoslavians seem to have greater emphasis on quick breaks which involve several players. Not that any of this is rocket science; it is exactly what they’re both known for.
There are a few early set-pieces, with Scotland having a right wing corner and a free-kick almost in a corner-kick position, whilst the visitors line up three corners in relatively quick succession thereafter. Yugoslavia have several physically robust players in their side, and they are by no means inferior to the hosts in the battles which succeed the set-pieces. Still, they can not produce an effort on target from either of their early attempts at swinging balls into the penalty area, with centre-back Radanović coming the nearest, or at least getting his head to a right wing Baždarević corner kick. A truly wayward header was the outcome, and so the only threat to the hosts’ goal early doors is when Yugoslavia break with pace along the right, seeing Cvetković release Stojković for a right wing cross. Katanec had popped up in the centre, back to goal and marked by midfielder Aitken, and inadvertently almost slipped Cvetković through with a heavy touch. The visiting striker got a touch ahead of goalkeeper Goram, but the 24 year old custodian got down well to get a hand to the ball, and in doing so disturbed Cvetković sufficiently for the striker to lose control of the ball. Nicol eventually cleared away for a corner.
Around ten minutes in, there’s a first opportunity for the hosts, when McClair, famous for his football-intelligence, spots Nicol having made a run in behind left-sided defender Spasić. The Scotland forward threaded the ball precisely through for the wide man, who got into the area before he was closed down by the retrieving Hadžibegić. However, Nicol had sufficient time to get a shot away, and he worked a save down to his right by Ivković, with Jozić completing the clearance before Johnston could get to the rebound. By this point, both teams had let their opponents know of their intentions.
Scotland look to use their right hand side
Whilst the battle for control is intense, there is still room for some fine football. As you would expect, the general level of close control among the visiting players is second to none, and all over the pitch they have players well capable of escaping with the ball intact even in tight situations. This is part of what makes them such a formidable opponent. They combine individual brilliance with physically robustness, and even a strong side such as Scotland are finding it difficult to come entirely to terms with them. However, full credit to the hosts for attempting to play football of their own. They try to take the bull by its horns, so to speak, and they often engage their own right hand side in order to produce openings for crosses into the centre. This involves both right-back Gough and right-sided midfielder Nicol a whole lot, and at the same time Yugoslavia need to have forward Vujović track back to reduce the threat from the Scottish right-back moving forward, and not leave an overload against Spasić alone. The latter appears to be someone built for battles and not little combinations along the deck, though his physique comes in handy whenever there’s an aerial challenge to be made. Spasić will generally contain Nicol, especially in the air, although there’s no lack of trying from the flame-haired Liverpool ace along the Scottish right hand side. Some of the finest tussles are had by these two.
The game’s just shy of 20 minutes when the hosts move in front. For just about the first time in the tie, the hosts employ left-sided midfielder Bett, as he runs on to a diagonal ball from inside his own half by centre-back McLeish. So far, it is often the younger one of the two Scottish central defenders who plays it long. Whilst Bett does appear to be a tad on the heavy side, he manages to escape the attention of Stanojković, and he feeds the forward rushing Malpas, who rides a lunge from Katanec and in turn plays a one-two with McClair, who releases the left-back for a shooting opportunity to the left inside the penalty area. Malpas does manage to keep the ball down, drawing another parry out of Austria based Ivković, though with the ball spinning free, it is Scotland striker Johnston who reacts the quickest to the rebound, and reaching the ball just ahead of Spasić he prods home via the post for 1-0. Cue wild celebration in the well populated Hampden stands. It is France based striker Maurice Johnston’s second goal in two qualifiers.
It is time to have a closer look at how the teams have decided to shape up for this contest. For Scotland, they have arrived in their familiar 4-4-2, and they are equipped with quite a seasoned eleven at international level. Among the starters, there’s only goalkeeper Andy Goram, a 24 year old born in England, though of Scottish ancestry, and forward Brian McClair who are on single caps figures with five and nine respectively. Goram had been selected in the squad already for the 1986 World Cup, although at 22 he’d been an understudy of Jim Leighton’s, the man he had now replaced since their previous qualifier.
The four man strong defensive line were made up of the same ones who had featured in Norway, with one expected exception: Rangers’ Richard Gough had come back into the team at right-back, replacing one of their best players in that 2-1 win in the injured Gary Gillespie. Other than the Stockholm born big man, there were the usual suspects with Aberdeen pair Willie Miller, aged 33, alongside his partner in crime Alex McLeish. Together they made a fearsome duo for attackers to come up against. The elegantly two-footed Maurice Malpas was again Roxburgh’s prefered choice at left-back. The 26 year old Dundee United man had come up against a difficult opponent in Norway, although he had been dealing better with Karl-Petter Løken after the half-time break. Now, he would most likely face an even trickier customer in the hugely talented Stojković.
In midfield, the hosts had gone with a square four man unit in which a third Aberdeen player had been included in the shape of Jim Bett along the left hand side. Bett had been a peripheral performer at international level during Roxburgh’s tenure, and had just taken part in one of their eight qualifiers for the 1988 European Championships. However, this was his 20th cap altogether. He had replaced Steve Nicol along the left, although the 26 year old Liverpool man was still included in their starting selection, now operating along the right hand side. The positional switch for Nicol had clearly come about to accommodate Bett in the side, and possibly also for other tactical reasons such as Nicol’s defensive strengths. He could prove very useful in assisting Gough to deal with the Yugoslavian left hand side.
In central midfield, Scotland again stood with Celtic duo Roy Aitken and Paul McStay, although the two had swapped shirt numbers since last time around, and Aitken had even been stripped of the captaincy, which had gone to Miller, who had indeed taken over this particular responsibility in Norway after Aitken had been withdrawn relatively early in the second half in risk of obtaining a second yellow card. Aitken was the defensively stronger among the two, with the gifted McStay so capable in possession, acting as something of a Scottish playmaker.
Up front, Roxburgh had once again decided for the former Celtic duo of Brian McClair, now of Manchester United, of course, and Maurice Johnston. McClair had been utilised in a midfield capacity during the second half in their opening qualifier, whilst Johnston had proved a lively outlet up top, and his second half goal had ultimately brought the Scots both points. Johnston, often a controversial character, was in his second season abroad, and he was typically someone you could rely on for goals, with his seven goal return from 21 previous internationals an acceptable number. He had shown his worth already in this game, trusting his instincts as he arrived first on the scene to poke home the loose ball after Ivković’ parry from Malpas’ shot.
After the goal
In the minutes succeeding the goal, it is not as if the visitors lose any kind of belief in what they are doing. Yugoslavia keep plugging away; they remain confident about the task ahead of them. They keep displaying plenty of calmness in possession, although they rarely let nonchalance creep into their play. They move the ball about with purpose, and they use their vast range of individual skill whenever there’s a need for it. In midfield, they have an inspired Stojković, who always seeks possession, looking to free any player ahead of him with a precisely executed pass. A Stojković with an appetite for the game spells danger to any opponent. He skips challenges and he dictates the pace. The Yugoslavian playmaker is growing into the contest by the minute, and arriving at the 25 minute mark, he is the one looking the more likely to make things happen. However, his shooting efforts could’ve been better. Earlier in the half, he’d hit a wild first time volley to the right outside the Scottish penalty area, an effort which had looked impossible, and which had ended up high in the stands. Around the first half’s halfway point, he’d attempted a shot from just shy of 25 yards, albeit with almost an identical outcome as before.
In view: Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia had arrived in Glasgow in a distinct 5-3-2 formation. Last time around, in that Spain away friendly, they’d been seen in more or less a 3-6-1 variety, with captain Vujović needing to contribute quite a lot also inside his own half. On this occasion, manager Osim had once again deployed dependable ‘keeper Tomislav Ivković, with the now 28 year old Wiener SC man appearing for the 12th time in country colours. Ivković had kept goal in that ill-fated 5-0 loss against Denmark during the 1984 European Championships, and it had taken him almost three years to feature in his next international. However, he’d been a peripheral player in the qualification for the 1988 European Championships, appearing just once. Now, it was likely he was considered more mature, and so he was seemingly Osim’s first choice, with Partizan Belgrade’s Fahrudin Omerović his back-up on this occasion.
As previously mentioned, it was difficult to say beforehand who would slot into the spare man role among those defenders which Osim had picked. However, the choice was narrowed down to two individuals: Italy based Davor Jozić and 31 year old Sochaux veteran Faruk Hadžibegić. The former was making only his seventh appearance for Yugoslavia, though a move to the Italian Serie A had hardly done him and disfavours in regards to being selected. Indeed, the Cesena defender had been given the nod as the Yugoslavian libero on this occasion, meaning he would be sweeping behind a central defensive pairing consisting of Hadžibegić and Belgium based Ljubomir Radanović, who at 28 was making his 34th international appearance. The Standard Liège man, who had appeared in something of a defensive midfield capacity in Spain last month, was the second highest cap among the visiting players. The order of appearance among the two central defenders seemed clear: Radanović was working to Jozić’ advanced right, Hadžibegić across Radanović to the libero’s left. They would both be looking after the Scottish forwards in duties carrying hallmarks according to zonal rather than man-to-man marking principles. As it were, with Johnston often seeking right-sided territories, it would be Hadžibegić coming up against him more often than not.
Wide in defence, Yugoslavia had two players who had some level of freedom in coming forward and contributing inside the opposition’s half: Vujadin Stanojković, the sole domestic based player in the squad not to hail from either of the two Belgrade giants, was seen along the right, whilst the clearly less agile, yet frequently forward-galopping, Predrag Spasić would bring memories back to such a legend as Hans-Peter Briegel. Spasić carried great physique, but he was still capable of clocking up the miles, trotting back and forth along the left according to needs. The two wide players were Yugoslavia’s two least capped men with three and two respectively.
The midfield unit would seem to be Yugoslavia’s strongest point at the glance of an eye. The trio operating in the engine room were Mehmed Baždarević in the central role, a 28 year old now with Sochaux, along with fellow Yugoslav Hadžibegić, with the slightly younger and somewhat more inexperienced at this level Srečko Katanec and Dragan Stojković just ahead of him. Stojković originally held the inside right position, although he would appear pretty much in any position which best suited him. He was without much doubt the one player whom they looked to to make things happen, as his team mates would often leave responsibility of possession with him. It was not a bad thing to do. Katanec, yet another very physically adept Yugoslavian player, was also quite dynamic in his role, easily seeking any area of the pitch where he would be in demand. Baždarević had the fairly rare ability of striking the ball almost equally well with either foot. This made him less predictable, and he was someone who would also join in attack, looking for any opportunity to strike from distance.
Up top, the visitors had Zlatko Vujović in something resembling a wide left role. He seemed to have clearly less defensive responsibility than in Oviedo, but he would still from time to time need to look over his shoulder and see whether Gough decided to come forward or not. If the Scotland right-back felt like crossing the halfway line, then Vujović could be tempted to keep him company, though not on each and every occasion. In a more central position, there was Ascoli ace Borislav Cvetković, a flexible player also fairly well equipped in a physical sense. He was predominantly working through the centre, but he would at times also engage himself in play towards the right hand side, especially when interacting with either of Stanojković or Stojković, or indeed both. Altogether, this visiting eleven was certainly no mean composition.
Some dull passages of play
Some of the passages of play between 25 and 35 minutes are less impressive. Neither side is able to make much of an attacking impact, and attacks are often nipped in the bud. This point of the game is probably the weakest in terms of quality, where there’s interceptions both ways as players struggle to reach their intended targets with passes. Scotland, whether it is a conscious act or not, sit slightly deeper than before, protecting their slender lead, although some of the Yugoslavian play is less inspired, and they are uncapable of making a breakthrough, not forcing Goram into action since 22-23 minutes in when he’d easily dealt with a 28 yard attempt from Jozić. Scotland, when moving forward, do so with fewer men than previously as time passes, so a picture is clearly emerging in which the hosts are deliberately taking fewer risks in the attacking zone. However, there are signs that the hosts struggle to move their feet quickly enough once the visitors decide to shift the ball quicker among themselves. If they’d only felt the need to do so more often, they’d probably have put the Scottish under greater threat.
There’s a first booking of the game when Yugoslavia libero Jozić concedes possession a few yards outside his own area to McStay. In attempting to retrieve the ball, he fells the Scotland midfielder, and there’s no reason to debate Mr Tritschler’s decision to yellowcard him.
Pace-injection leads to 1-1
Suddenly, there’s a change of pace to Yugoslavia, and it starts when Baždarević decides to go long in search for Cvetković after a Scotland free-kick up the other end. Home skipper Miller had opted to take out enough depth to cut the ball off before it could reach the Yugoslavia striker, and he managed to pass it back to his goalkeeper. Then, only seconds later, it is Cvetković in possession who quickly turns to his right and spots a fine run by Vujović, though the Yugoslavia captain is obstructed by Gough, and the referee awards the visitors a free-kick 26-27 yards out. Stojković has a go, something which almost brings about an equalizer, with the ball, possibly also via a deflection off the wall along the way, tipped onto the outside of the post by Goram.
The subsequent corner would yield the equalizer. It was quite odd, in fact, how Yugoslavia for a spell had been tedious in their build-ups, and once they’d decided to attempt a more direct approach they’d produce some danger. From the left wing corner which came about after Goram’s save from Stojković’s free-kick, McStay failed to clear the ball on the near post, something which saw midfielder Katanec nip in to prod home an all important goal for the away side: one apiece.
To be fair to McStay, both Johnston and Gough had been ahead of him in line as candidates to clear Stojković’ corner kick, so he should not be made scapegoat for Yugoslavia’s goal, even if his first touch saw the ball end up with Katanec.
Less than two minutes after Yugoslavia’s goal, there’s a massive opportunity for them to move in front, as they again strike an aerial ball into the area. They’d made advance down the right hand side, and the highly influental Stojković moved inside and tried to pick Cvetković out on the back post after the striker had made a clever run in between Gough and Nicol. Yugoslavia’s number 9 had reached the ball, although he’d not managed to do anything with his header, something which turned out to be a gift to Spasić, who had lurked in the same area. With both of Gough and Nicol on the ground, Spasić could take aim ten yards out, but it fell to his much inferior right foot, something which meant he would sky his effort high into the stand. A right-footer, and someone more used to being in a goalscoring position, would’ve proved a much greater threat to the hosts.
It was odd to witness how seriously underused the Scottish left flank was. Bett had hardly been involved in play at all, and it appeared to be unclear what his mission in the side was. And was he even match fit? Stanojković did not have an awful lot of defensive troubles, so then it was slightly ironic that Scotland’s sole purposeful attack down the left hand side had rewarded them with their goal. Of course, it had happened courtesy of left-back Malpas’ initiative rather than something which Bett had conjured up, although the Aberdeen winger had in fact been the third last home player to touch the ball for Johnston’s goal.
No blatant weak spots in the away side
In the visiting camp, there was no such obvious weak point. Scotland had more often than not wanted to attack towards the right hand channel, something which had engaged Hadžibegić and Spasić, but it is fair to say that the duo had not been a whole lot troubled defensively. In fact, the Yugoslavian defence had coped admirably with anything which the hosts had thrown at them, and there was no denying that they had earnt their equalizer.
How about goalkeeper Ivković’ performance, though? Had he could done better for the goal? Malpas’ shot had been low and hard, and preventing the ball from going directly into the back of the net had obviously been the ‘keeper’s priority, and so it was that the rebound had fallen kindly for Johnston, who sniffed the opportunity like a predator. Some six minutes from the break, there’s another small proof of Ivković perhaps not always feeling completely assured, as the energetic Nicol arrived in another crossing position from the right, picking out Aitken who had arrived at the back post. With the Yugoslavian goalkeeper having changed his mind, originally coming to pick the ball out from the air but then reconsidering, the goal appeared to be at Scotland’s tenacious midfield man’s mercy. However, like was the case with Spasić only moments earlier, goalscoring was not Aitken’s great forte. He failed to get his header on target, and so Ivković was luckily, from his point of view, spared any further blushes.
Arriving at half-time
1-1 stands through to half-time, as there’s little further goalmouth action. The final ten minutes or so had been an improvement on the poor ten minute spell prior to Katanec’ equalizer, though the half seen as one had been a finely balanced spectacle. Yes, perhaps had the Yugoslavians the better individual performers, or at least the more technically gifted ones, but you’d ignore this Scottish select at your peril: They would battle until there was no hope and no time left. In McStay, they even had a midfielder whose individual level was right up there with the best among the away players, as the Celtic man had emerged as a contender for the ‘Man of the match’ award should he continue in the same vein after the break.
During the interval, neither team has made any changes in personnel. Again, kick-off is absent from the live footage of the game, and we’re arriving on the scene what we gather is approximately three minutes in.
Despite the fact that no substitutions have yet been made, there’s still a change since the opening 45 minutes, with the two Scottish wide players having swapped sides. Steve Nicol had had an active opening half along the right hand side, where he had combined with Richard Gough and Mo Johnston to cause trouble to the visitors, whereas Jim Bett had hardly had a sniff along the opposite flank. Perhaps had the switch between the pair come about to try and ignite Bett and get him going, but at the same time it made sure to break up a right hand side which had functioned well before the break. Another idea behind Nicol moving across to the left hand side, where he had indeed played during the win in Norway the previous month, could be for him to come closer to the instrumental Dragan Stojković, whose prefered area of operations was as an inside right midfielder. From an inverted left position, like Nicol had held last time around, he would come head to head with the Red Star ace. Roxburgh could well be pleased to reduce his team’s attacking strength in order to try and nullify the chief threat from the opponents.
Early second half Yugoslavia initiative
The second half images open with a far post opportunity for Yugoslavia captain Zlatko Vujović. He had been relatively stationary, typically stuck to the left hand side, during the first 45 minutes, but on this occasion he had moved across to the right, and got in behind Scotland left-back Malpas’ back to head straight at Goram from Katanec’ cross. It had been difficult for him to get any real conviction behind the header, but perhaps would this mean that Vujović was going to wander more in the final 45?
Yugoslavia boss the first ten minutes of the second half, and Scotland struggle to wrestle free from the grip that the visitors hold on them. The away side seem to exploit the fact well that they are numerically superior in the centre of the park, where their three men hold an advantage against McStay and Aitken. Up front, Cvetković had been showing during the first half that he was skillful along the ground, and he would often combine well with Stanojković and Stojković towards the right. In the centre, the Ascoli striker would be the one challenging Scotland’s central defensive pairing for balls into the box, and he would be hoping to lay off for Baždarević, who more often than anyone from the Yugoslavian midfield three would arrive in the shooting sector. For the hosts, McLeish played a tremendous blocking game all evening.
Vujović had arrived at that early opportunity when he had connected with Katanec’ cross, and on 53-54 minutes, the Yugoslavia captain gets another chance to showcase his heading talent: Cvetković plays a fine ball into the centre from outside the penalty area, and Vujović moves well in the box to get to the ball ahead of full-back Gough. However, his header from 12 yards slices off his forehead somewhat, and the ball goes wide to the left of Goram’s goal. Had the Yugoslavia number 11 managed to direct his header on target, it could’ve proved a difficult save to make for Goram.
Andy Roxburgh had tried to wake to life Jim Bett by shifting him across to the right hand side for the start of the second half, but there had simply been no response. The Aberdeen wide man had a night to forget, and although he had played his part, even if it had been a minor role, in Scotland’s goal, it was clear for all to see that he had failed to cope with the pace of the game. The decision to withdraw him seemed a sensible one; perhaps should Scotland have done so already at half-time. Ten minutes into the second half, it was time for Rangers striker Ally McCoist to make his introduction. With a striker on for a wide player, there would need to be a reshuffle somewhere.
The Scotland substitution seems to help them raise their game a little; they’re no longer as tail heavy as they had been until then in the second half. They had added a little more skill in the centre of the park, with Brian McClair dropping back into central midfield to accommodate McCoist up top alongside Johnston. This further meant that the elegant McStay would take a step back towards the rear of midfield, the area which his Celtic comrade Aitken had been patrolling until then, with Aitken himself taking up a right-sided midfield position. In McClair, Scotland now had a further player capable of advancing past an opponent with the ball at his feet, and it also appeared to benefit the hosts that they now had two strikers well capable of stretching the visitors’ defence. McClair had, at times, lived a somewhat stationary life up front; he was hardly the quickest on two legs. An advanced midfield role seemed to suit him better. Still, it is Yugoslavia who have the next pop, with Stanojković shooting first time over and wide after Stojković’ lay-on.
Good quality all around
Even if neither side is able to carve out any significant openings so far in the second half, the game has plenty of nerve and tension. It is also evident to onlookers that there is an abundance of talent on display. Both sides remain totally committed, and no player wishes to shirk any challenge. The visitors give as good as they get, not wanting to be outmuscled by a team renown for their ‘shirt on the sleeve’ attitude. Individual performances might not be highlighted in this part of the game, though they remain solid. The ball gets shifted onwards with the use of few touches, and both teams’ tactical ploy is also a joy to behold. Scotland have Nicol work so well in defensive tandem with Malpas along their left that it is difficult for Stojković to keep up his stronghold on the tie, and surely this must have been the main idea with the second half role switch for the versatile Liverpool man.
With some 20 minutes left for play, Scotland decide to make their second substitution when taking off Aitken and replace him with David Speedie of Coventry. This was the second time in successive games that Roxburgh brought the imposing Celtic midfielder off, although this time it had greater tactical undertones than last time around, when he had been substituted at the risk of picking up a second yellow card. Speedie, who had burst on to the scene in English football as part of a fine tandem at Chelsea, alongside Kerry Dixon, could also be someone playing deeper than an outright striker. Otherwise, it could’ve been thought that this was a bold attacking move by the Scottish management team. Would he be a straight right-sided swap for Aitken?
The latest Scotland substitute comes on in a central midfield capacity, something which again shifts a Celtic player out into a wide right position: Paul McStay has probably been one of Scotland’s two best players so far, along with McLeish, though from a wide position he will no longer be as influental as he has been. And with Speedie, or even McClair, the other central midfielder, hardly famous for their defensive qualities, does not the hosts’ midfield now appear to be dangerously light in substance? It turns out that Speedie’s central role is not permanent; two-three minutes after his arrival, normal order is resumed, with McStay returning to the centre. And Scotland continue to be on par with Yugoslavia, despite Cvetković’ effort to break clear. The Yugoslavia striker can only hit it with the tip of his boot, and Goram makes an easy save.
There’s a second booking of the game when home substitute McCoist, who has been involved in an earlier episode with Yugoslavia defender Hadžibegić, whom he had caused some pain with a high kick, goes down inside the penalty area amidst claims that he’d been caught by Spasić. The referee had waved play on initially, though with the ball going out of play, he would return to McCoist to show him the yellow for play-acting. Replays of the incident show that the striker attempts to make the most of it, probably starting his fall even before Spasić touched him, but there does seem to be contact eventually. Had the striker not tried so hard to get the referee’s attention, perhaps could Scotland have been rewarded with a penalty?
Whether the wind has increased in strength or not is difficult to say, but fact is that Scotland try their best to take advantage of this through huge kicks whenever goalkeeper Goram is in possession. This clearly appears uncomfortable for the Yugoslavia central defenders to deal with, although it fails to create any thing resembling danger in front of Ivković.
Spasić takes a hit
Yugoslavia skipper Vujović had at times during the second half moved from his position out left towards the centre and even across to the right, and it was from a right-sided central position that he opted to lift a ball towards the left, where Spasić was typically moving forward. This time, the ball was played so high Spasić needed to challenge in the air for it, and in doing so, he collided with Gough. The ball went out for a throw behind them, though Spasić remained on the ground, clearly in discomfort. Mr Tritschler did not even feel the need to check on the floored left-back, and ordered resumption of play. Moments after there’s a free-kick awarded for the visitors, with Speedie impeding Baždarević out by the touchline, and this is when the visitors’ players decide to confront the referee for not awarding at least a free-kick after the Spasić/Gough incident, where they claim the Scottish full-back had used his elbow. Eventually, Katanec sees yellow for something he’d said to the West German official. Spasić gets back up and continues, but he seems to be confused, and he will be substituted three minutes later, with Dragoljub Brnović taking over his role as the wide left player. Baždarević had in fact signalled to the bench that Spasić was in no fit condition to play on in the wake of Katanec’ booking.
Ten minutes from time comes the biggest second half goalscoring opportunity hitherto: Aware of the wind, Scotland ‘keeper Goram opts to kick it deep into opposition territory. He’d just claimed a poorly executed right-sided free-kick from Stojković, and looking for either of the two strikers, Goram launches a kick which first evades McCoist and Hadžibegić challenging for it. Next up, Johnston disturbes Radanović to the extent that the ball goes loose, and connecting right-footed first time is McCoist, who has followed on through to the edge of the area. Ivković makes a tremendous low right-handed save, and though the ball goes back out to Johnston for him to have a pop, the flame-haired striker scuffs his effort straight into Ivković’ arms. It had been McCoist with the chance, and had it not been for a top drawer save, the hosts would’ve been ahead.
At the end
The remaining minutes probably see Scotland finish the game stronger, clearly aided by the massive goalkicks which are possible due to the wind. Yugoslavia continue to struggle in clearing their lines when faced with these high balls right into the heart of their defensive territory, and on one such occasion the guests are somewhat fortunate to see an attempted clearance by Hadžibegić kicked straight into the feet of McCoist and ending up in the safe grasp of Ivković. The ball could easily have gone to either side of the ‘keeper.
There’s a late substitution made by the visitors as they withdraw Cvetković for midfielder Refik Šabanadžović. As our tape concludes only 40 seconds after this final substitution, it is difficult to say what the idea behind it was, though it seems likely that Osim at this point was satisfied to take a point back home.
It had been a relatively open first half contest, in which the hosts drew first blood through Johnston’s poke home after Ivković had saved Malpas’ shot, only for the visitors to draw level with Katanec’ near post finish when the Scottish had failed to deal with Stojković’ left wing corner. There had been good pace to the game, and Yugoslavia had probably been the more dominant, though there had been few true tests for Goram. After the break, Scotland would do some reshuffling to bring back some momentum, and once Bett had been withdrawn for McCoist, they appeared to be a greater threat to the visitors. It had been the Rangers striker who had brought the best save out of Ivković some ten minutes from the end, and other than that little had happened directly in front of either goal. Good game, great contest, always tense. A draw was fair enough.
1 Goram 7.1
secure throughout. Never tested much, but always a firm grip whenever a ball was delievered into the centre
2 Gough 7.2
a marauding presence at right-back, and came forward with relative success first half, when he had Nicol to combine with. Less efficient as an attacking force after the break, but usually kept Vujović under check
3 Malpas 7.0
played a massive part in the goal, though he would rarely venture into enemy territory. Sound defensively, though did not stand out
4 Nicol 7.2
a big force along with Gough along the Scottish right hand in the first half, though switched across to the left after the break. He still gave a truly committed display, even if his efficiency inside Yugoslavia’s half was reduced
5 McLeish 7.5
headers won, blocks and interceptions were what his game was based on. He did all very well, and he even played some long distance passes which were accurate. Hugely benefits from having such a street smart partner
6 Miller 7.2
the Scotland skipper sat back and tidied up anything which got past McLeish, and though not so quick along the ground, his reading of the game saw him arrive first at the scene anyway
7 McStay 7.5
despite being part of a midfield which was outnumbered, McStay delievered a superb game. Strong in possession, good vision and distribution. Not faulted for commitment. Neither was he overawed by the presence of some big names around him
8 Aitken 6.9
in the thick of the action in the first half, when he sat at the rear of the Scottish midfield, though a man short, they at times struggled to make an impact. Got switched out to a right-sided role for his final 15 minutes, and kept things simple. Had arrived at the back post for a headed opportunity in the first half. Replaced for tactical reasons
(14 Speedie –
his great jump saw him win an attacking set-piece header, but altogether he did not really get into the game after coming on. Saw minutes in the centre as well as out wide right)
9 Johnston 7.1
opportunism saw him rewarded with another goal, and he rarely stood still all match. Often came out towards the right hand channel, and enjoyed some fine battles with the seasoned Hadžibegić
10 McClair 7.1
no big threat up front in the first half, although he played a major part in the goal. Was brought back into central midfield after the break, and his surges forward with the ball at his feat saw him emerge as a more important ingredient
11 Bett 5.9
the only surprise is how he lasted so long. Featured along the left during the first half, in which his sole involvement was running on to a McLeish pass which would eventually reward the Scottish with their goal. Other than that, he hardly touched the ball. Looked off the pace. No improvement after switching to the right after the break
(15 McCoist 7.1
quite agile, moved about well, was a nuisance to the visiting defenders, and arrived at Scotland’s chief chance apart from the goal, when he saw his shot saved by Ivković)
1 Ivković 7.2
one dodgy moment in the area apart, he did his stuff impeccably. The pick of the bunch was obviously the late save from McCoist’s effort
2 Stanojković 7.1
one of the most committed away players, and in particular his tussles in the second half with Nicol, a similar type of player, were interesting. Stood his ground, had a couple of wayward shots after the break, but generally linked up well with Stojković
3 Spasić 7.0
a fully committed performance, and he actively participated going forward, particularly in the first half. Fine tussles with Nicol first half, and after the break he was less tested defensively. Out with possible concussion after aerial challenge with Gough
(14 Brnović –
a more agile presence along the left than his predecessor, but little time to make an impact)
4 Jozić 7.1
mopped up well behind his two central defensive colleagues. Sloppiness in possession saw him rewarded with a yellow first half, and in general his attacking contributions were limited. Decent clearances
5 Hadžibegić 7.3
his wealth of experience was vital to the Yugoslavian rear lines, and he gave as good as he got in battle with the Scottish strikers. Also a big presence in the air
6 Radanović 7.0
less involved than the two other central defenders, but played his part in a tight defensive unit, and would sneak into enemy territory to deliever a couple of poor shots
7 Stojković 7.5
his range of passing and level of close control were second to none, although he could also drift out of the game for spells. When tuned in he was ahead of everyone else in his roaming midfield role
8 Katanec 7.2
he grew in stature as the game passed, gaining in confidence through his goal. Important with his size, though passing was not always accurate. Still, he carried a certain influence by the end of the game
9 Cvetković 7.1
gave a fine performance in which he never shied away from challenges with the Scottish central defenders. Good level of mobility, and would often cooperate with Stanojković and Stojković towards the right. Brought off late in tactical switch
(15 Šabanadžović –
no time for us to judge him whatsoever)
10 Baždarević 7.4
hugely vital two way player: As likely to defend ahead of the defensive trio as he was to arrive at the other end with a shot from outside the area. Used both feet equally well, and linked up well with his midfield partners
11 Vujović 6.9
a lesser influence than most of his team mates on the night, but the presence of such a capacity would’ve spurred the others on. Static first half, slightly more mobile in the final 45, when he moved away from his left side comfort zone on occasions