Slovenia 2-2 Scotland: Bezjak cameo kills off Scotland's playoff hopes

A 2-2 draw was not enough for eithier Slovenia or Scotland to make the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying playoffs, as the two shared the spoils on group F's matchday 10 contest in Ljubljana.

Slovenia 2-2 Scotland: Bezjak cameo kills off Scotland's playoff hopes
Scotland players collapse at the end (photo: Getty Images / Srdjan Stevanovic)
Slovenia
2 2
Scotland
Slovenia: Oblak, Struna (Skubic, min. 45), Mevlja, Cesar, Jokic, Rotman, Kurtic, Repas (Bezjak, min. 45), Ilicic, Verbic, Matavz (Vetrih, min. 88).
Scotland: Gordon, Tierney (Fletcher, min. 79),, Berra, Mulgrew, Robertson, Phillips, Fletcher, McArthur (Snodgrass, min. 78), Bannan, Martin (Anya, min. 52), Griffiths.
SCORE: 0-1, min. 32, Griffiths. 1-1, min. 52, Bezjak. 2-1, min. 72, Bezjak. 2-2, min. 88, Snodgrass.
REFEREE: Jonas Eriksson (SWE). Booked: Tierney (min. 4), Rotman (min. 57), McArthur (min. 65), Mulgrew (min. 83), Berra (min. 90), Verbic (min. 90), Cesar (min. 90). Sent off: Cesar (min. 90+2).
INCIDENTS: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying group F match between Slovenia and Scotland. The match was played at the Stadion Stozice, Ljubljana.

A cameo performance from Slovenia substitute Roman Bezjak earned them a 2-2 draw at home to Scotland and denied the visitors a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying playoffs. 

Bezjak breaks Scottish hearts

Things looked good for a while in this final group F game for Scotland who found themselves 1-0 up at half-time after a rather quiet half of football courtesy of a Leigh Griffiths strike.

The opening goal arrived in the 32nd minute when Slovenia never fully cleared a cross and James McArthur headed the ball back over the defence for Griffiths who let the ball drop onto his left foot before half volleying back across goal into the bottom right corner to send the 2,500 Scotland fans into raptures. 

However, things would turn around, unfortunately for Scotland as the Slovenian manager took a chance with nothing to lose by making a double substitution at half-time. Winger Bezjak was one of the players to come on and he headed Slovenia on terms seven minutes into the second half by getting on the end of a great free kick delivery from Josip Ilicic

Bezjak then seemingly put the playoffs dream out of reach for Scotland as he doubled his tally to give the hosts the lead 20 minutes from time. Again Scotland couldn't defend a set piece as a corner broke the way of Miha Mevlja with his back to goal who then calmly layed the ball off for Bezjak who so cooly passed it into the bottom right corner through a crowd of bodies.

Gordon Strachan's team weren't about to throw in the towel though and they gave themselves a glimour of hope through their own replacement, Robert Snodgrass who made it 2-2 in the 88th minute. It was a simple dink forward from Darren Fletcher with Snodgrass fighting hard to get in front of his marker before lifting it over the defender and Jan Oblak in the Slovenian goal from close range. 

Game comes to life in the second half

As mentioned the first half was a poor affair, but the Scots didn't care as they found themselves a goal in front. Despite the fact Scotland were the side who had the realistic chance of the playoffs, it was Slovenia who played like the side who needed the win in the second half.

The hosts could have easily scored eithier side of their first goal as Craig Gordon had to make a couple of crucial saves to Keep Scotland in touch. Gordon first flew high to his right to keep out a swerving Jasmin Kurtic effort from 25 yards and then just after the goal he kept a deflected Bezjak effort from close range after he was nearly wrong footed.

Although it would prove to be too little too late, Scotland did come back into the game in the late stages and Fletcher could have equalised 10 minutes early than his team actually did. A Kieran Tierney cross bounced his way in the middle of the box, but the Stoke City midfielder leaned back and blazed his half volley over. 

Scotland could have in fact nicked the game late on as just after the equaliser, Andrew Roberston found space on the left and then released Matt Phillips on the overlap whose low deflected cross nearly wrong footed Oblak, but the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper managed to readjust and keep the ball out. 

Tensions then boiled over in stoppage time as the Slovenia captain Bostjan Cesar was shown two quick bookings to be sent off after different altercations with Christophe Berra

A missed oppurtunity

The wait will now go beyond the 20 year mark for Scotland to make a major tournament and this was their best chance for some time. Strachan's team have been on a great run since June, but they let this game get away from them by not being agressive enough and thinking one goal against a team with nothing to lose was going to be enough to win.