SCOTLAND manager Craig Levein was left lamenting more refereeing decisions last night as his seemingly-doomed reign was dealt another major setback with a gut-wrenching 2-1 defeat in Wales.
The Scots needed a win in Cardiff to have a realistic chance of prolonging their unlikely bid to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. And they would surely have got it if a 75th-minute goal from Steven Fletcher hadn’t been wrongly disallowed with the Scots already leading through a James Morrison first-half goal.
But things took a further turn for the worse when Wales were awarded a soft penalty after Gareth Bale appeared to clip his own heels under a challenge from Shaun Maloney. The Tottenham winger scored the spot-kick and then sealed the win with a sensational strike two minutes from the end.
With the Euro 2012 campaign ultimately coming to grief when the Czech Republic levelled at Hampden through a controversially-awarded penalty, the feeling that Levein’s reign just isn’t meant to be was heightened by last night’s injustices. “With ten minutes to go I just couldn’t see us losing the match,” he said. “Getting the second goal for us was always going to be crucial though, because a 1-0 lead can be fragile. So it proved tonight. That second goal was oh-so important to us. And I believe the officials made a serious error with the chalked-off goal which Steven Fletcher scored. That is very hard to take.
“The chalked-off goal for me is a huge error, coming hard on the back of the last qualifying campaign when we had a similar situation against the Czech Republic. It’s very difficult to take.
“The only thing we can do is go to Belgium and try and win on Tuesday. I feel an injustice again this evening but the important thing is we react in the right manner. It makes it more difficult but I think we can win in Belgium now.
“We need to win on Tuesday. Tonight is a disappointment. We have had some hammer blows and this is the latest one. We have an honest, hard-working group of boys who feel a bit aggrieved about what happened. We’ll try and use that for Tuesday.”
Asked if the result increased the pressure on him, Levein said: “It’s always the same, isn’t it? Any time you take the team into a competitive international match, the pressure is exactly the same. I don’t want to talk about what if this or that happens. The important thing now is that I do the job to the best of my ability and get the players up for Tuesday.
“We have been subject to a couple of really poor decisions and it has a huge effect on our chances of qualifying. That makes me pretty angry but I don’t think there is any point in venting that anger here.
“You can understand my frustration and everyone who watched it will make up their own minds.”