Iceland goalkeeper Frederik Schram was the scourge of Scotland last night as he denied Ricky Sbragia’s players the victory they deserved in the 2017 European under-21 championship qualifier at Pittodrie.
After the defeat by France at Pittodrie on Saturday, the Scots produced a composed display against Iceland, the group leaders, but they could not find a way past Schram, who made several saves to earn his side a point and maintain the visitors’ seven-point advantage on the hosts.
A point was the least Sbragia’s young Scots deserved for their efforts but, for all the home side’s pressure towards the Icelandic goal, they could not find a way past the opposition goalkeeper and the result leaves them with it all to do.
Scotland have two games in hand on the surprise group leaders but can ill-afford to drop more points in the campaign after a win, a draw and a defeat so far.
Senior Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, fresh from the team’s European championship qualifying campaign, made the trip to Pittodrie to watch the emerging young talent in action against group leaders Iceland.
The visitors lined up as under-21 manager Sbragia predicted, in a 4-4-2 formation, while the Scots continued with a 4-2-3-1 system with Jason Cummings leading the line.
It was the Hibernian attacker who produced the first chance in the 10th minute when he turned on the edge of the box before firing in a high curling effort which was saved by Iceland goalkeeper Schram.
In a lively opening for the Scots they carried a threat from both flanks, too, and Hearts’ Sam Nicholson joined Cummings in testing Schram from long range but again the goalkeeper was equal to the shot.
The long-range attempts continued through captain John McGinn but the Scots were fortunate not to fall behind when Aron Elis Brandarson headed wide from close range following a rare Icelandic attack.
It was not hard to see why Iceland had amassed 10 points from their opening four matches. They withstood all the Scottish pressure, keeping Sbragia’s team from getting in behind their back four.
They also looked a potent attacking threat when they ventured forward and Elias Mar Omarsson should have put his side ahead before the break when he worked his way into the box but Jack Hamilton saved his low strike from six yards.
The Scots were in need of inspiration and Caley Thistle midfielder Ryan Christie almost delivered it at the start of the second half when he swivelled before hooking a knockdown goalwards but again Schram was equal to the task, blocking the goal-bound effort from close range.
The pressure continued to build on Schram’s goal as Crewe Alexandra’s Stephen Kingsley whipped in a terrific cross for Cummings but his volley was superbly tipped away by the Sjaelland goalkeeper.
With the home side failing to make the breakthrough Sbragia sent on Aberdeen forward Lawrence Shankland, who is on loan at St Mirren, for the tiring Cummings in the hopes of finding the net.
Shankland did not have long to wait for his chance as Christie’s ball found him in space but his angled drive from 16 yards flew over the Icelandic crossbar.
Despite the efforts of McGinn and Christie, Scotland’s two best performers, the young Scots had to settle for a draw in a frustrating outing.
Even at this early stage in the campaign it is a result which suits Iceland and has left Sbragia’s young side with it all to do if Scotland are to make the finals in Poland.