Scotland U21s 0-2 Belgium U21s: Scot Gemmill’s side face uphill battle for qualification after loss


Lois Openda scores a penalty for Belgium under-21s against Scotland
Lois Openda’s penalty gave Belgium the lead before the break

Scotland under-21s’ chances of reaching the 2023 European Championships suffered a setback despite a spirited performance in defeat by group leaders Belgium at Tannadice.

Lois Openda’s first-half penalty put the visitors ahead as he slotted home after a careless tackle by Josh Doig.

Lewis Fiorini had Scotland’s best chance in the second half but he was thwarted when clean through.

But Nicolas Raskin sealed the win for Belgium in the final five minutes.

Defeat leaves Scot Gemmill’s side third in the section, 14 points off Belgium, who have won six from six.

After Denmark’s earlier victory against Turkey in Group I Scotland needed a win to close the gap to the second-placed Danes back to two points, with a runners-up finish enough to enter the play-offs for the 2023 Euros.

Belgium possessed players like Amadou Onana, who has featured in the Champions League for Lille this season, as well as the prolific Vitesse forward Openda, and Anderlecht wonderkid Yari Verschaeren.

However, Scotland were not timid and pressed high, fashioning the first chance when Scott High played a ball over the top for Glenn Middleton who flashed his shot on the angle just wide.

The Belgians eventually settled though, and ended the half strongly as their quality began to show.

After spurning a few chances, they made the breakthrough when Doig’s rash challenge on Yorbe Vertessen earned them a penalty, which Openda converted for his sixth goal of the campaign.

It was a frustrating moment for Doig, who could not pull out of his sliding challenge in time to prevent the inevitable spot kick. Scotland were then perhaps lucky to keep 11 men on the pitch when Lewis Mayo brought down Openda as he looked set to catch a through ball.

There was a fresh blow for the home side – and potentially St Johnstone ahead of their League Cup semi-final against Celtic on Saturday – as their main threat Middleton limped off with a muscle injury early in the second period.

But they continued to battle back for an equaliser and the game turned on two crucial moments, both involving the again prominent Fiorini.

The Manchester City midfielder first capitalised on slack defending from centre-back Ewoud Pletinckx to race away, but could only side-foot his shot into the path of goalkeeper Senne Lammens.

Then, his swivel away from Pletinckx in the box caused the defender to put his hands on his hip and force him down, only for the referee to wave away penalty appeals.

Fiorini also had an effort into the side-netting from a tight angle, but Scotland goalkeeper Cieran Slicker was forced to produce two fine stops to deny Liege forward Raskin before the visitors doubled their lead.

Slicker could only watch as Raskin shot high into the net after a brilliant cross from the right by Hugo Siquet.

Having now lost two and won just one of their first four games, qualification looks a tough ask for Scotland in a difficult group, with a double header against Turkey and Kazakhstan to come next at the end of March.

Line-ups

Scotland U21

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Slicker
  • 18Burroughs
  • 5WelshSubstituted forMontgomeryat 86′minutes
  • 4MayoBooked at 43mins
  • 3DoigBooked at 39minsSubstituted forClaytonat 45′minutes
  • 19WilliamsonBooked at 85mins
  • 15High
  • 14KellyBooked at 55minsSubstituted forBanksat 86′minutes
  • 10Leonard
  • 11MiddletonSubstituted forAwokoya-Mebudeat 60′minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 8Fiorini

Substitutes

  • 6Clayton
  • 7Banks
  • 9Pressley
  • 16Awokoya-Mebude
  • 17Montgomery
  • 20Anderson
  • 21Mair
  • 22McKinstry
  • 23Kennedy

Belgium U21

Formation 3-4-2-1

  • 12Lammens
  • 15van der Brempt
  • 4Pletinckx
  • 14de Winter
  • 2SiquetSubstituted forSardellaat 90′minutes
  • 23RaskinSubstituted forZarouryat 90+1′minutes
  • 6Mvom Onana
  • 22NdenbeBooked at 80mins
  • 9VertessenSubstituted forBalikwishaat 65′minutes
  • 7OpendaSubstituted forDemanat 90+1′minutes
  • 10VerschaerenSubstituted forKanaat 73′minutesBooked at 78mins

Substitutes

  • 1Delanghe
  • 3Keita
  • 8Ait El Hadj
  • 11Balikwisha
  • 13Samoise
  • 16Kana
  • 17Deman
  • 18Sardella
  • 20Zaroury

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