Saturday, 6 June 2015

Ritchie is Scotland's star man against Qatar

Matt Ritchie was a starter for Scotland's friendly against Qatar at Easter Road stadium. I was pleased to see James Forrester on the left as well with Naismith leading the line and Maloney playing in behind. It was only Ritchie's third cap but he looks right in the thick of it for Scotland's Euro 2016 hopes.

This was the first ever meeting between the two sides and I suppose Scotland had no idea that Qatar would be even more in the spotlight after what happened at FIFA this last week, but there was certainly a lot of interest in what the World Cup 2022 hosts would be able to do against the Tartan Army. Some 14,000 were at the match which was also shown on TV. Ritchie started well with a ball to james Forrest that saw Scotland go close in under three minutes. Ritchie then took a free kick after five minutes from the right, but it was too close to the keeper.
Matt picked up his first international goal for Scotland yesterday against Qatar.

Matt was one of those very much driving the pace for Scotland and he was involved in pretty much everything in the first 20 minutes, while Watford's Ikechi Anya was also starting to see something of the ball. It was 10 minutes before Qatar had a chance to get something on target from a free kick and it looked like they would play on the break.

Ritchie looked much more like his usual self in the game - anticipating passes and where to be and always finding space. He looked more comfortable than when playing previously for Scotland. Even when he gave the ball away, he quickly won it back. With Ikechi Anya playing behind Ritchie, Scotland had plenty of pace on the right side. 

It was Steven Naismith he was looking most likely to score, although Charlie Mulgrew missed a good heading chance from a corner on 23 minutes. Matt popped up on the left then and quickly won a free kick. Forsyth later put in a deep cross from the right which led to Ritchie volleying wide on 25 minutes. He would have been disappointed not to have made the keeper make a save. After half an hour the game had slowed quite considerably and Qatar were getting more of the ball. Ritchie had a shot blocked after 31 minutes as Qatar plugged the holes in their defence.

The more Scotland probed the more Qatar looked like they might spring a surprise, although Fadlalla's shooting from range left a lot to be desired. Mohammed Montari of El Jaish would be the more likely to score, but Qatar were not finding him in any space. The excitement was not enough for someone as we had a streaker on the pitch after 39 minutes - someone hand that man a kilt!

Matt Ritchie's match winning strike.

Come 40 minutes though and the magic of Matt Ritchie was unleashed. While Naismith went on a string run he ran into a defender and the ball ran back out to Matt some 25 yards out and he powered it into the bottom right corner of the goal to give Scotland the lead - 1-0! Matt's first goal for Scotland was just what the game needed. In stoppage time Steven Naismith nudged a shot against the post as well.

Morrison had replaced McArthur at half time for Scotland. The second half saw both sides attacking well. Ritchie put in a good corner from the right but Naismith nodded wide. Naismith again might have won a penalty on 51 minutes but it wasn't given - a relief for Hassan Fadlalla after his challenge. Ritchie was not seeing so much of the ball but took a free kick on 56 minutes from the left where he played in the second half. There were more opportunities on the right though where Naismith hit another shot wide before the hour. Lee Griffiths then replaced him and Darren Fletcher came on for Scott Brown and Charlie Adam replaced Scott Maloney.

That was all followed by a forgettable free kick from Ritchie which went straight out. Forrest smashed a shot over then after Charlie Adam had injected a bit more quality with his passing. The game began to slow again with more subs by Qatar and frequent stoppages for offside. Ritchie wasn't as effective in this half and that may force Strachan to keep him on the right in future games. Ritchie was certainly holding his runs more as the game went on even if he did get a few crosses in.

Qatar were still trying to get an equaliser and Fadlalla again was at the centre of things getting played in behind Anya, but he did not hit his shot first time and all he got was a corner. It was James Forrest  who was next to be subbed for Derby's Johnny Russell to come on. Forrest had had a great game I thought. Ritchie immediately switched wings with Russell.

Al-Haydos reminded everyone that Qatar were still in the game forcing David Marshall to make a good save low to his right. Fadlalla also made a brilliant run beating several players to get himself in the box but could not find a finish. The game rather ran out of steam towards the end. Still it had been a good outing for Ritchie, who was man of the match, and another moral boosting win for the Scots.

Transfer gossip
In other news AFCB have been linked with a move for Portugal and Bragar striker Eder.

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