Levein's Scots settle for point
Craig Levein's Scotland were held to a 0-0 draw away to Lithuania in Euro 2012 qualifying.
Last Updated: 04/09/10 2:12pm
Craig Levein will have suffered a mixture of frustration and satisfaction after his first competitive match in charge of Scotland ended in a 0-0 draw away to Lithuania in Euro 2012 qualifying.
The visitors enjoyed the territorial advantage in their Group I opener in Kaunas and Middlesbrough's Barry Robson and Stephen McManus had Lithuania with their backs to the wall.
But Scotland could not find a way through as their hosts, who had threatened in the first half through Saulius Mikoliunas, held out for a point.
For Levein it will have been disappointing not to make a winning start to the campaign, having only previously taken charge of friendlies since his appointment last December.
But the former Dundee United manager will also have been delighted with the dominant display of his team and he will be well aware of the importance of avoiding defeat away from home in European Championship qualifiers.
Levein prompted some raised eyebrows when he named his team on the eve of the game with Steven Naismith preferred to James McFadden in left midfield.
The move was part of a plan to designed to give Scotland a more solid look following last month's 3-0 friendly defeat in Sweden.
Levein certainly succeeded with that aim after making eight changes and bringing back experienced players such as Lee McCulloch, Stephen McManus and 40-year-old Davie Weir, who became Scotland's oldest capped player.
No clinical edge
But his team lacked a clinical edge despite dominating possession in Kaunas against a side who were missing injured Hearts skipper Marius Zaliukas.
Naismith had the first chance to deliver a telling ball after Steven Whittaker's pass inside the full-back. The Rangers player hesitated with the ball on his left foot, but still found Scott Brown who mis-hit from inside the box.
Scotland looked more competent in possession than their hosts from the early stages and Tada Kljanskas was booked for the latest in a number of heavy challenges on Robson.
Miller got the first shot on target, but Zydrunas Karcemarskas held his looping, deflected effort from long range.
Allan McGregor soon made a more impressive stop from Saulius Mikoliunas in the 18th minute.
The ball broke to the former Hearts midfielder after he had scythed down Weir with a dangerous high challenge, but Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir waved play on and McGregor did well to beat away the powerful shot from 15 yards.
The Lithuanians continued to give away fouls in their defensive third and Robson was given two chances to line up a shot from 25 yards.
Both were on target, but only the second troubled Zydrunas Karcemarkas, who dived to push the ball wide.
Robson forced another save when his low drive from distance was pushed away and Scotland again came close in the 35th minute when Darren Fletcher whipped a free-kick to the back post. McManus shrugged off his marker before sending a first-time volley with his weaker foot just past the far post from 12 yards.
Mikoliunas, who was banned for two games after diving to win a penalty during the last meeting between the nations, went down theatrically in the box as Brown tracked his breaking run, but the Turkish referee rightly waved play on.
The Celtic midfielder was then booked for a late tackle on Tomas Danilevicius as Lithuania comfortably held on until the break.
Robson created a great chance four minutes after the break when he got away from his man and crossed with his right foot on to Miller's head, but the unmarked Rangers striker headed straight at the keeper from 12 yards.
Scotland were otherwise struggling to find their attacking rhythm in the early stages of the second period, but Naismith should have done better in the 59th minute after Brown broke up a Lithuanian counter-attack.
Fletcher's long diagonal ball found Hutton, whose first-time pass fell invitingly for Naismith 20 yards out, but his shot lacked power and direction and was easily held.
Some desperate defending from McManus prevented Darvydas Sernas from getting a shot in as the game began to open up.
Scotland needed some inspiration and McFadden replaced Robson in the 69th minute.
The Birmingham winger immediately showed his skill with a mazy run that was halted inside the box but Levein decided on another change five minutes later when James Morrison replaced Brown and McFadden joined Miller up front.
Scotland enjoyed some decent pressure in the closing stages, but it was not to be Levein's night.Naismith hesitated when the ball fell for him 18 yards out, McFadden's cutback would not fall for a blue shirt and Miller headed well over from a difficult chance.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|1||Shots on Target||5|
|1||Shots off Target||3|