Scotland put up a spirited show in their first Euro 2016 qualifying match, going down 2-1 to world champions Germany. Thomas Muller gave the hosts a first half lead in Dortmund, only for Ikechi Anya to level midway through the second half. However, Gordon Strachan's men were undone by Muller's second goal of the night four minutes later — before Charlie Mulgrew was dismissed in the closing stages when he kicked the ball away and received a second yellow card. Arguably, the Scots' bid to reach the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1998 was never going to really start until next month at home to Georgia — who were beaten 2-1 by Republic of Ireland in their encounter earlier in the evening. Poland are also qualification rivals with Gibraltar the section makeweights and it is against those countries where expectations will rise – but on this evidence there should be room for optimism. Germany boss Joachim Low had to reshuffle his pack following his summer success in Rio. World Cup winners Miroslav Klose, Philip Lahm and Per Mertesacker retired from international duty while Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil and Mats Hummels were out injured. However, Low was able to field seven of the side which played in the World Cup final against Argentina. The Germans, strong, confident and mobile, dominated from the first whistle. Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle fired over in the fifth minute with a speculative effort before left-back Erik Durm's cross from the left minutes later found Muller, who knocked the ball wide from a few yards out — although the flag was up for offside. Scotland could hardly get out of their own half but in the 13th minute good work by Anya on the left byline to get past Jerome Boateng created some disarray in the home side's box. Midfielder Barry Bannan's drive was deflected for a corner which came to nothing initially, only for Mulgrew to crash a powerful shot off the post before finding the offside flag up. Moments later Marshall had to beat away a Durm shot for another corner which Scotland defended but the goalkeeper had no chance when Muller got on the end of a Sebastian Rudy cross and looped a header over him and into the net. Marshall was twice tested by drives from Marco Reus, the second effort being parried to Schurrle — whose return shot from an angle was blocked by Scotland stopper Grant Hanley on the stretch. Three minutes before the break Schurrle found space on the left again and his cut back was flicked on by Reus with Marshall having to scramble to claw the ball away from the line. With two minutes of the second period gone Steven Naismith took a pass from marauding right-back Alan Hutton at the edge of the German box and created a yard of space for himself with some neat footwork, only to drag his shot just wide of the far post. Strachan made a double substitution just before the hour mark, replacing Bannan with Steven Fletcher and captain Darren Fletcher with James McArthur. Moments later, when Naismith fired high over the bar when he had time to take control of an Anya cross, it looked like it was not going to be Scotland's night although they began to play with a bit more belief. There was a shout for a Scotland penalty when Sunderland striker Fletcher's header from Naismith's cross was blocked by Rudy – but Norwegian referee Sven Oddvar Moen was not interested. It was Fletcher who was the architect of Scotland's equaliser when he turned and sent Anya clear with a perfectly-weighted pass. The Watford winger raced through with some confidence and slipped the ball past Neuer to send the Tartan Army into raptures. However, that joy lasted only four minutes before Muller took advantage of slack Scottish defence at a corner to slam the ball high into the net from close range. It was a sickening blow to the Scots. Germany defender Benedikt Howedes was perhaps fortunate to receive only a yellow for a foul on Naismith outside the box moments later as Scotland roared back, before Marshall made another good save, this time from Mario Gotze. The game swung end to end in the final stages with Germany missing a couple of chances to make sure of victory before Mulgrew, booked minutes earlier for a foul in Reus, was sent packing for kicking the ball away.
World Cup 2018