21.03.2019 18:46 h

Scotland slump to humiliating 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan

David Bates (Scotland)
David Bates (Scotland)

Scotland's Euro 2020 qualifying campaign got off to the worst possible start with an embarrassing 3-0 Group I defeat at the hands of Kazakhstan in Nursultan on Thursday.

The Kazakhs, ranked 117th in the world, struck twice inside 10 minutes through Yuriy Pertsukh and Yan Vorogovskiy to leave an under-strength Scotland shell-shocked.

Alex McLeish's men secured the safety net of a playoff to qualify via the Nations League in November and already that looks like their only realistic route to a first major tournament in 22 years as Baktiyar Zainutdinov's terrific header made it 3-0 six minutes into the second half.

"We didn't use the ball well enough, we didn't do what we were asked to do, so the players have to put their hands up," Scotland skipper Callum McGregor said.

"It's massive frustration. We know it's a bad result and we have to go again. We have another game (against San Marino) in a few days to make steps to put it right.

"There's not a lot we can say apart from that we didn't do our jobs."

Without captain Andy Robertson and the highly-rated Kieran Tierney, McLeish was forced to name Graeme Shinnie in an unfamiliar role at left-back, and the Aberdeen skipper was exposed for both the first two goals.

Scotland looked longingly for an offside flag that never came as Pertsukh ran onto a long ball over the top and fired high past the helpless Scott Bain.

The visitors never recovered and Shinnie was caught ball-watching as Vorogovskiy was picked out by Islambek Kuat's pass to slot past Bain again.

But for the Celtic goalkeeper, one of Scotland's worst ever nights could have been more humiliating as Bain tipped over Kuat's dipping drive.

Kazakhstan scored just six goals and failed to win a game in their entire qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

However, they had half that goal tally and the three points sewn up before the hour mark when Scott McKenna was outjumped by Zainutdinov, who directed his header across Bain into the bottom corner.

Scotland were shorn not only of Robertson and Tierney but a host of other regulars due to injury and international retirements, while Ryan Fraser and Charlie Mulgrew were not selected in agreement with their clubs -- Bournemouth and Blackburn Rovers -- due to the plastic surface the match was played on.

However, that will not shield coach McLeish from pressure as Scotland failed to even muster a response in the final half hour.

Bouncing back with victory away to San Marino on Sunday is now imperative for Scotland to have any chance of automatic qualification from Group I by finishing in the top two.

But with Russia and World Cup semi-finalists Belgium also in the six-team group, Scotland already have a mountain to climb.