Scotland Under-21 coach Ricky Sbragia blasted the Macedonians for “diabolical” and “ungentlemanly” behaviour after his side’s European Championship qualification hopes were effectively ended at Tynecastle tonight.
The young Scots lost 1-0 in a match which ended in feisty fashion as the ten-man visitors resorted to gamesmanship in the closing stages in order to see out their victory. Sbragia’s mood wasn’t helped by the fact his side were on the receiving end of two contentious stoppage-time moments which denied them an equaliser.
The first saw former Hibs midfielder Liam Henderson have a goal chalked off for a foul on the goalkeeper even though replays showed he didn’t touch him. And seconds later, the hosts were further incensed when they were awarded a penalty, only for the officials to change their mind after furious remonstrations from the Macedonian players and their coach, who raced down the touchline to appeal the decision. Although it transpired that the ref was right not to award a penalty, as it had in fact been Scotland’s Oli McBurnie who handled in the box, Sbragia was disappointed by the way the Macedonians conducted themselves both on the pitch and in the technical area.
“The mannerisms of their dugout were diabolical,” he said. “If that’s respect... it’s ridiculous. It seems the more pressure they put on officials, the more they get, and I think that happened here. You’re only supposed to have one person standing up [in the technical area], and I think they had 15 standing up at times. Balls were being thrown on the pitch from their staff [while the game was rumbling on]. You try not to get involved in it and keep the players focused on it, but their players know when to go down and roll around and we have to deal with that.
“I wouldn’t stoop to that. If we do that, we get people sent off. It’s annoying seeing them chalk Hendo’s goal off because it should have stood but you have to get on with it. They’re killing time and rolling around. For me it’s not part of the game. It’s ungentlemanly.”
The result ended Scotland’s hopes of making it to Poland next summer. “It’s disappointing,” said Sbragia. “The players are gutted. I thought we deserved something. We played very well but we can be better with our decision-making. At this level you’ve got to be clinical and they were more clinical than us.”