Muller brace sinks brave Scotland

On the same night a Glaswegian gave Scotland’s Euro 2016 Group D play-off rivals a boost in Tbilisi, how Gordon Strachan could have done with Aiden McGeady’s wizardry against World champions Germany.

Muller brace sinks brave Scotland

Scotland arrived full of vigour on the back of six games unbeaten but, for all the noise created by their 5,500 fans perched high up in the corner of the wondrous venue belonging to Borussia Dortmund and the equaliser pocketed in the second half, they never looked capable of producing a shock.

Strachan deployed Steven Naismith into a lone striker’s role on the opening day of the campaign and, while that may prove effective for Everton where McGeady supplies the support, neither Barry Bannon nor Ikechi Anya possessed the same creativity of Ireland’s matchwinner in Georgia.

Behind them, Darren Fletcher’s return to competitive action at international level following his protracted illness will be remembered for merely that as he had no answer in midfield for the nous of Christoph Karmer and, especially, Toni Kroos.

Strachan shortened the suffering for his skipper by replacing him on the hour with Crystal Palace’s € James McArthur, a move which gave them more of a foothold in the middle.

Last week’s friendly defeat to Argentina aside, this was Germany’s first game of substance since ending their 24-year wait for the Holy Grail in Brazil. Should they progress and replicate Spain by adding the European title to their repertoire, doubtless Thomas Müller will be once again instrumental along the journey.

While the Scots managed to repel their hosts for the opening 18 minutes, one cross from the right hung long enough in the air for the Bayern Munich man to spring high and head beyond David Marshall into the far corner.

The Cardiff City stopper kept his side in the tie three minutes before the break by pawing the ball off his line when Marco Reus had gotten the slightest of touches to Andre Schürrle’s wicked near-post delivery.

Apart from Bannon’s shot that deflected wide with the game scoreless, the Scots had worked off scraps in that opening half, yet carried more zip to their attack following the turnaround.

Naismith’s low drive shaved Manuel Neuer’s post three minutes after the restart after a surge from defence by Alan Hutton created the opening.

While the Germans should have stretched their lead as Reus was denied by the legs of Marshall when put clear on goal, the Tartan Army were soon sent into raptures with the equaliser.

With 66 minutes played, substitute Steven Fletcher galloped 40 yards before slotting the ball into the far corner.

By now, the visitors had switched to 4-4-2 but silence in the vast majority of the arena lasted only four minutes with Müller grabbing his 24th international goal in just 58 appearances.

This, however, was one of his easiest of his tally. McArthur’s botched clearance from a corner towards his own goal allowed the unmarked Müller to volley into the roof of the net from six yards.

Only one chance of equalising for a second time came the way of the Scots and that, from Steven Fletcher’s free-kick, was wasted by hammering the ball into the wall.

For Germany, Mario Götze miscued from close-range while Müller was denied his hat-trick by the foot of the post in stoppage time.

To spoil a brave effort by the Scots, Charlie Mulgrew was sent-off in stoppage-time. His offence in picking up his second yellow card was, bizarrely, for wasting time by kicking the ball away.

There was enough displayed by Strachan’s crew to suggest they can get off the mark in the double-header against Georgia at home and Poland away next month.

Then, in November, they welcome Ireland to Celtic Park for the return of Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane and, of course, local lad McGeady.

GERMANY: Neuer; Rudy, Boateng, Höwedes, Durm; Kramer, Kroos, Reus; Müller, Götze; Schürrle.

SCOTLAND: Marshall; Hutton, R Martin, Hanley, Whittaker; Fletcher, Mulgrew; Morrison, Bannon, Anya; Naismith.

Referee: O Moen (NOR)

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