Scotland's Euro 2012 hopes ended in Alicante tonight as they were outclassed by
all-conquering Spain at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez.
Craig Levein's side needed an unlikely win over the reigning world and European
champions to guarantee them a play-off spot in Group I or at least match Czech
Republic's result in Lithuania.
However, a first-half double from David Silva was a testament to the home
side's superiority - and the Czechs streaked into a three-goal interval lead
David Villa netted Spain's third goal in the 54th minute to end any semblance
of a contest before Scotland substitute David Goodwillie scored a consolation
goal from the spot after Victor Valdes had fouled Craig Mackail-Smith.
However, with the Czech Republic completing a 4-1 win over Lithuania, it was
all over for the Scots.
Mackail-Smith passed a fitness test on a back problem and was chosen to lead
the line again as Levein kept the same starting XI.
Skipper Darren Fletcher overcame an ankle knock while fellow midfielder Barry
Bannan played with a strapping on his Achilles injury.
The world and European champions were looking for a perfect qualification
campaign and included star names such as Silva, Xavi and Villa - although
Fernando Torres was dropped to the bench.
A huge travelling support gave the Scots encouragement but, as expected, Spain
kept the ball almost from the first whistle as the visitors chased shadows.
It took only six minutes for Spain to take the lead from an attack down the
left, Villa setting up defender Jordi Alba - who cut the ball back for Silva to
sweep the ball low past goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
Scotland stuttered then responded and moments later Bannan's cross from the
right to the far post just evaded the stretching Steven Naismith.
In the 12th minute, as Spain reasserted themselves, midfielder Santi Cazorla
drove at the Scots defence before sending in a low drive which McGregor grabbed
at the second attempt, moments before the Rangers man made another save, this
time from Pedro's shot.
Scotland had their best chance of the half when Naismith's backheader found
Fletcher - but the Manchester United midfielder volleyed over from 12 yards.
McGregor had to dive low to his right to tip a powerful drive from Villa away
for a corner, which the Scots survived.
Four minutes from the break the Rangers keeper made a great save from Cazorla,
but with a minute remaining Silva worked a one-two with Pedro before driving low
past McGregor for Spain's second goal.
Mackail-Smith had a snapshot at the start of the second half which went
straight to Spain goalkeeper Victor Valdes - but it was simply a precursor to
more misery for the Scots.
Moments later Naismith gave the ball away deep in defence, allowing Pedro to
set up Silva for a shot which went high and wide.
In the 54th minute the Scottish defence was cut open again and this time Silva
set up Villa who, from 14 yards, calmly slotted the ball past McGregor for
Just past the hour mark Bannan had an effort from the edge of the box easily
saved by Valdes, before McGregor made yet another save from Villa.
In the 66th minute, Scotland were awarded a penalty when Valdes fouled
Mackail-Smith and substitute David Goodwillie scored his first international
goal from the spot.
Six minutes later Goodwillie had a great chance to set up an exciting finish
when Alan Hutton knocked on a McGregor goal-kick - but the Blackburn striker's
shot went over the bar.
However, Spain finished as they started and they almost got a fourth goal in
the 83rd minute when Cazorla's chipped shot over McGregor landed on the roof of