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7 of 007

I played great apart from that two-yard miss, says Iwelumo

World Cup Euro Qual Gp 9
Scotland 0
Norway 0

* Andy Hunter at Hampden Park

It was football's equivalent of Captain Edward Smith claiming to have sailed the Titanic brilliantly but for that bit of ice. Chris Iwelumo stood before the press and said that, yes, it was a bad miss, but remove his slice of infamy from the equation and his Scotland debut should be classed as encouraging. As his manager, George Burley, has discovered, it is not easy to convince when a World Cup place is at serious risk.

The Wolverhampton Wanderers forward may have had a point, as his introduction and the change to 4-4-2 did wake Scotland from their slumber against Norway on Saturday. But it would miss a far bigger one to give too much credence to his words. Iwelumo did not merely join Ronny Rosenthal and other unfortunates in the strikers' hall of shame when he prodded wide of an open goal after the Norway goalkeeper, Jon Knudsen, had failed to intercept Gary Naysmith's delightful cross - he left Scotland's World Cup qualifying prospects on a precarious edge, opened his manager to criticism that will intensify with the premature retirement of Kris Boyd, and produced what may prove the defining moment of Burley's campaign. With no competitive fixture until March and only four points from the opening three games in Group Nine, a long winter stretches before the Scots.

Iwelumo preferred to accentuate the positives, having made his international debut at 30. "We got a point, that's the positive way to look at it, and the performance of the boys was positive," he said. "My own performance, if you take away the chance, was also positive; my link-up play and winning balls in the air. I thought my performance was good and if I scored it would have been the icing on the cake. It's just one of those things.

"People will talk about the miss and rightly so, it was a bad miss, and it was a crucial three points lost, but my miss didn't lose us the match and there are things to take forward to the next game. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. I'm going upstairs to see my daughter now and that will cheer me up. Family is the most important thing to me, I have two beautiful girls and the older one was here at the game. When I go upstairs, I'll switch off and have a bit of time to myself."

If they had switched off the giant screens at Hampden then Scotland's second-half momentum might not have been completely lost. So astonishing was Iwelumo's miss that the assistant referee signalled for a goal before realising, along with a horrified home crowd, that the striker had heeled wide from three yards. Not even Scotland's players could avert their eyes as the incident was replayed several times, and Burley's men retreated into their shells until Kirk Broadfoot engineered late chances for Iwelumo and Steven Fletcher.

"It totally deflated us," said Craig Gordon, who, impressive in the Scotland goal, frequently thwarted John Carew and prevented Steffen Iversen snatching victory late on. "The crowd didn't need to see that again and I'm sure we didn't. Everybody looked up at the big screen and saw it on a number of occasions. But it has happened now, he didn't manage to score and I'm sure he will come back stronger."

Burley's decision to withdraw James McFadden and James Morrison and introduce Iwelumo and Fletcher, with one cap and no goals between them, rather than Boyd, with seven goals in 15 caps, was open to ridicule as soon as the Wolves man blundered. Having promised adventure, the Scotland manager instead oversaw a sterile, ponderous display until he showed bravery with that 56th-minute double substitution. But he did not get lucky and instead, with McFadden cursing in the dug-out and Boyd composing his notice to quit, the manager's problems have increased.

"I thought tactically I got it right," Burley said. "I looked at it and changed it. If you don't change it and go for it then you can say the system didn't work but we got it right in terms of changing things and dominating the game. The first goal was crucial and we should have got it."

Man of the match Scott Brown (Scotland)
The manifold perils of an open goal

Ronny Rosenthal, September 19 1992

Liverpool v Aston Villa

A goal looked certain as the Liverpool striker beat keeper Nigel Spink only to shoot against the bar from close range.

Jeff Astle, June 7 1970

England v Brazil

How different might have England's World Cup turned out had Astle converted with just the keeper to beat?

Nwankwo Kanu, November 14 2004

West Brom v Middlesbrough

An unforgettable howler, the Nigerian somehow scooping the ball over the bar from almost directly under it.

Kevin Keegan, July 5 1982

England v Spain

With time running out on England's World Cup on came Keegan - to spurn the clearest chance of the match, heading wide of an open goal.

Christian Vieri, June 18 2002

Italy v South Korea

Italy blamed defeat on poor refereeing. They wouldn't have had to had Vieri not missed an open goal late on.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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