International friendly matches are divisive among football fans.
Some consider it an inconvenience, but Scotland’s 2-2 draw against Austria was a captivating match.
It ended in a disappointment for Steve Clarke’s team when they conceded a two-goal lead in Vienna, but there were many positive points.
Clarke’s transformation over the national team’s fortunes was very impressive and eight unbeaten games is a remarkable achievement.
It was a pulsating opening 15 minutes into Vienna as both sides were close to scoring.
John McGinn had two chances for Scotland when he stabbed the hands of former Kilmarnock loanee Daniel Bachmann before shooting wide at eight minutes.
But on the other hand, Craig Gordon was at his brilliant best to keep the Austrian’s at a distance.
The Hearts stop made an excellent reaction stop to deny Sasa Kalajdzic’s header and Gordon’s outstretched leg prevented the powerful striker from opening the scoring at 14 minutes.
Like a good red wine, Gordon seems to get better with age and the 39-year-old made a great stop to deny Marco Arnautovic at 20 minutes.
Scotland owed their goalkeeper an equalizer, but it was Jack Hendry who received the praise when he put the visitors ahead after 27 minutes.
John McGinn’s corner found Grant Hanley at the back post and his head bounced back perfectly from the bar for Hendry to nod home.
Austria applied more pressure at the start of the second half, but Clarke’s men are a resilient group and they did not fall in line.
On top of that, they have doubled their advantage with one of their best goals in recent years after a smooth team move.
Scotland pushed the ball around like Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona before Kieran Tierney – brilliantly throughout – cut the ball back for McGinn to hit the ball home.
Gordon made some more smart savings when both drivers took advantage of the chances in the last twenty minutes.
Austria were finally rewarded for their persistent efforts when Michael Gregoritsch kicked past Gordon in 75 minutes.
It went from bad to worse for Scotland when Austria equalized in 81 minutes through Alessandro Schopf.
All in all, a draw was a fair result, but there will be a touch of frustration given how the events unfolded.
Walter B. Pitkin introduced the old saying that ‘life begins at 40’.
But when Craig Gordon reaches that landmark on Hogmanay, he will raise his glass to the top after another year.
The 39-year-old has enjoyed a renaissance since joining his beloved Hearts and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Gordon is comfortably Scotland’s best goalkeeper and if he can maintain his current performance levels, it’s hard to predict that any young opponents will move him in the next few years.
The experienced stopper made three important savings in the first 20 minutes to keep Austria at a distance.
He scored several more impressive saves after the break before finally being beaten by Gregoritsch’s header.
Gordon had little chance with Schopf’s equalizer, but he single-handedly retained Scotland’s unbeaten run with a remarkable stop
This is a sign of how highly Gordon is valued that these stops are considered almost routine.
A brilliant goalkeeper.
Great Tartan Army
An attendance of only 6,600 indicated the contempt shown by beleaguered Austrians towards this match.
The lack of enthusiasm was of course completely understandable as their World Cup dreams had just been ended by Wales.
But fair play for the Tartan Army because they showed up in such impressive numbers.
The traveling army was in good spirits throughout the first half as they teased the home support, or lack thereof.
It’s not cheap to follow your team overseas, so hats off to everyone who made the trip to Vienna!
One of the most frustrating aspects of friendly matches for fans – and commentators – is the amount of substitutes.
This could disrupt the flow of the match and the changes in the second half in Vienna were to Austria’s advantage.
Both of the hosts’ goals come from subs in Gregoritsch and Schopf.
None of Scotland’s changes embarrassed themselves in any way, but Clarke’s team had no control in the last twenty minutes and they deteriorated defensively.
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