Scotland Women coach Anna Signeul admits she gambled with some players’ fitness as her side went down 2-1 at home to the Netherlands.
The Scots’ hopes of reaching the 2015 World Cup now hang in the balance after their play-off semi-final first-leg defeat at Tynecastle.
A tenth-minute strike from Lieke Marten and a Manon Melis penalty soon after appeared to have the Dutch in complete control. However, a spirited performance after the break saw Scotland reduce the arrears through a Kim Little spot-kick.
Scotland must now show more than a little Dutch courage in Rotterdam on Thursday evening to have any hope of reaching the play-off final against either Italy or Ukraine as they require to score at least twice. Signeul commented: “We made a really disappointing start and we were unfortunate that we were temporarily down to ten players when they scored their first.
“Holland were very physical and whilst I don’t want to talk about the referee, we had Rachel Corsie suffering a broken nose and Hayley Lauder unable to continue.
“They are very fast on the wings and in the beginning we had a problem dealing with that. It’s tough when you have players that haven’t played very much and they are thrown into a game like this which is 180mph, but I think as the game went on we came more and more into it.
“Lisa [Evans] hasn’t played too much, neither has Kim [Little] and there were others that haven’t played for a long time, so everyone will have benefited from playing this game and I believe it’s in our advantage.”
The Scots’ lack of match sharpness was evident in the opening stages as Holland threatened to put the game beyond their hosts after opting for route one over silky football.
The swirling wind made playing conditions difficult and when Gemma Fay could only parry Vivienne Miederma’s power strike, Marten reacted quickest to open the scoring from a tight angle. Signeul’s side were fortunate not to fall two behind soon after when a horrible mistake from Ifeoma Dieke gifted Melis a gilt-edged opportunity from close range that she blazed over.
The Scottish defence was all at sea as the visitors used their physical prowess to force errors and when Miederma raced clear only to be taken down by Frankie Brown, Melis clinically dispatched the spot kick. Winger Melis should have put the game to bed shortly before the interval when she used her pace to get away from substitute Emma Mitchell before shooting straight at goalkeeper Fay.
The hosts were handed a lifeline shortly after the restart when Stefanie van der Gragt misjudged Brown’s cross from the right, allowing the ball to strike her hand, and Little dispatched the spot kick with aplomb.
The goal gave Scotland an undeniable lift and they were unfortunate not to level when Mitchell’s point-blank effort was deflected wide before Jennifer Beattie was inches away with a header from the resultant corner kick. With 20 minutes remaining Scotland went as close as they would all night to finding a leveller as Beattie once again connected powerfully, this time from an Evans free kick, only for goalkeeper Loes Geurts to make a fingertip save and push the header around her post
Towards the end, as Scotland threw bodies forward, the hosts were caught on the counter attack and, from Melis’ delightful chip, Martens spun to strike a sweet first-time volley that beat Fay but ended just wide of goal.
In time added on Scotland were once again lucky not to concede the killer third goal when Melis raced clear and knocked the ball beyond the advancing frame of Fay, only for her effort to strike the inside of the far post and rebound to Mitchell who cleared.
While disappointed by the result, boss Signeul believes her side can go to Rotterdam on Thursday evening and record a famous victory. She said: “I absolutely believe we can turn this around. We won the second half 1-0 and we must now go over to Holland and win those two halves.”
Scotland: Fay, Dieke, Love, Lauder (Mitchell 22’), Little, Crichton (Murray 88’), Evans ( Weir 71’), Ross, Corsie, Beattie, Brown. Substitutes not used: Lynn, McSorley, Sneddon, Docherty.
Netherlands: Geurts, van Luntern, van der Gragt, van der Berg, Worm, Dekker, Melis, Spitse, Miedema, van de Donk, Martens. Substitutes not used: van Veenendaal, Bito, Hoogendijk, Middag, van de Ven, Bakker, van den Heligenberg.
Referee: Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine).