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Scotland's World Cup hopes in tatters after Norway humiliation
World Cup Euro Qual Gp 9
* Riise, JA 36,
* Andy Hunter in Oslo
Norway's John Arne Riise John Arne Riise of Norway celebrates his team's fourth goal as Kris Commons of Scotland shows his dejection. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
It was not the long ball of Egil Olsen that devastated Scotland in Oslo, but the long arm of the law. Two draconian yellow cards in two minutes for Gary Caldwell reduced George Burley's team from comfort against Norway to 10 badly beaten men with their World Cup dreams on a precarious edge. The course of an entire campaign lurched towards the rocks inside 120 seconds.
The evening began with Norway needing to avoid defeat in order to keep South Africa in view. They ended it revitalised and with an exhibition that belied their manager's reputation for route-one football. "I would have taken 1-0 before the game but 4-0 is special," said Olsen. "It is us or Scotland for second place [in Group Nine] now."
"A horrible night," said Burley, who was forced to employ five different players in central defence, owing to the red card and subsequent injuries. His rearguard became predictably ragged as a result.
The next dropped point from either of these teams could decide who secures second place in the group behind Holland and given the shift in momentum here, and the remaining fixtures, it is likely to be those wearing Viking helmets and not kilts who make the play-offs.
Scotland began patiently and but for a wild miss from John Arne Riise they had been untroubled while causing the Norwegians problems from two corners. Darren Fletcher ought to have scored from the first. Then Caldwell tackled Morten Gamst Pedersen from behind in the 32nd minute, taking the ball and catching the man on the follow-through. Yellow card. Two minutes later he was gone, having pulled the shirt of John Carew to prompt a second booking from the referee, Alain Hamer, who initially seemed unaware that Caldwell was on a yellow.
"It was very harsh and if the referee had realised Gary had been booked he wouldn't have sent him off," Burley said.
Neither challenge would have guaranteed a booking in Scotland and though Caldwell should have trodden more carefully with Carew, it was the official who showed a lack of common sense. "Hamer by name, homer by nature," screamed the Scottish support, and their misfortune doubled when John Arne Riise's subsequent free-kick deflected off Scott Brown and beyond the reach of David Marshall.
Olsen said: "I wasn't happy playing against 10 men at nil-nil but when the free-kick went in it changed everything. It gave us a huge advantage and the match was decided before half-time."
Scotland's task may have been arduous but their response was calamitous. John Arne Riise helped secure the points on the stroke of half-time with a glorious pass that resulted in his brother, Fulham's Bjorn Helge Riise, setting up Pedersen for a nonchalant second. Game over.
This was a cathartic night for the former Liverpool defender, whose domination of his country's tabloids makes him Norway's equivalent of Jordan. Riise claims he is owed £3.7m by a former agent, Einar Baardsen, but at the start of legal proceedings to reclaim the money yesterday he was accused of bombarding women with suggestive text messages and harbouring a deep-seated envy and hatred of Carew. That resentment, Baardsen claimed in court, once sparked a fight between the pair on a team bus, which would indicate that Riise picks his passes better than his enemies. The pair made a point of embracing when the Aston Villa striker was withdrawn here.
Before that, Carew had created the third goal when he shrugged aside Alan Hutton and struck a shot against both posts. Erik Huseklepp converted the rebound. The centre-forward then had a legitimate goal disallowed when he poked Pedersen's cross a yard over the line, via the bar, only for the assistant referee to rule otherwise. The Blackburn midfielder completed the rout with a delightful 90th-minute free-kick.
Having lost Caldwell junior, Burley then saw Caldwell senior, Steven, suffer a groin strain and a third centre-half, the substitute Christophe Berra, suffer a hamstring injury.
"It is a devastating result to concede four when we came here looking to cement our position in second, but it is still in our own hands," Burley said. "We have Macedonia and Holland to come at home and they are must-win games now."
Taken from the Guardian/Observer