Scotland 3—2 Israel

Watching Scotland is a duty, rather than a pleasure. This game was the exception to the general rule that we play Israel every other game and snatch a bore draw. I’ve only ever been to Hampden once for a Scotland game. Needless to say Russia beat us. I remember ex-Scotland manager Craig Levein was in the team. That’s about it. Steve Clarke went against the grain and sent out an attacking Scottish team. Up top, he played Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes.

Lyndon Dykes missed a penalty, just before half-time to level the score at 2—2. It was identical to the penalty he scored against Austria. And anybody that watched that one winced, but we struck lucky in that qualifier.

Ex-Hibernian goalkeeper, Ofir Marciano who has a habit of making penalty saves, will mark that one down as one his granny would have caught.

Scotland were a goal down in the first five minutes. We had started well with long balls into Dykes and Adams, forcing the Israeli defence to sit in. Nir Bitton, six-foot-five, but as much chance of winning a ball in the air against any of these forwards as Julie Andrews climbing every mountain and becoming a nun in The Sound of Music. Austin MacPhee, Scotland’s new attacking coach at free-kicks, corners and throw-ins, had Tierney using a towel to dry the ball before flinging it long into the box. Inexplicably, Dykes, who you’d imagine would want to on the end of these long throw-ins, started taking throw-ins on the other side.  The Celtic defender and makeshift midfielder is good at playing simple balls beyond the Scotland midfield into the strikers.

Nathan Patterson, in for Stephen O’Donnell, was poor in the first-half, and a bit better in the second-half. He kept giving the ball away. And we’re often reminded you get punished at this level.

Solomon robbed him of the ball wide. Ex-Celt Jack Hendry brought down Zahavi twenty yards out.

PSV striker, Zahavi lifted it up and over the wall. Co-commentator, Ally McCoist, rhapsodised about what a wonderful free-kick it was, leaving our keeper, Craig Gordon, with no chance. It was a good goal, but perhaps a better keeper might have saved it.

Scotland’s equaliser was of the Robertson and Tierney variety. Just over thirty minutes gone. They held more than their own down the left, while on the right wing, Patterson and McTominay were slack in possession and turned far too easily. Robertson’s lay off at the edge of the box found John McGinn. He bent it into the top corner. This really was of the keeper having no chance school.

Israel went up the park and regained their lead in the next attack, two minutes later. This was of the Celtic school of defending. Hendry on the wrong side of the attacker. It comes off the Israeli player’s head. Gordon scoops the ball up into the air, which was poor goalkeeping. But equally, several Israeli players are ready to pounce. Dabbur from two-yard can hardly miss and pokes it home.

Scotland’s support deflated with that half-time penalty miss from twelve-yards after Billy Gilmour is brought down inside the box. In the second-half, Scotland dominated the ball, with McGregor, McGinn and Gilmour, in particular, picking the right passes.

Patterson upped his game, but went down far too easily in the Israel box after five minutes looking for another penalty and was lucky not to be booked. McGinn was booked for wiping out Soloman, after Scotland’s go-to man, lost the ball.

On the quarter-hour mark, Tierney whipped a ball into the box. Dykes gets in front of his marker and studs the ball into the net. The referee is quick to give it as a foul and book Dykes. The equaliser is chalked off. One acronym, VAR. He has a look and the goal is given. 2—2 and half-an-hour to go, Scotland in the ascendency. The question being asked by the drunk and sober was can we win it?   Being sober, I doubted it.  

Zahavi, for example, once again got in behind a static defence, only for his goal to be chopped off by VAR. VAR turned out to be our best defender, but having so much of the ball we limited their chances.

Patterson, for example, did what he was brought into the team to do and attacked their defence and got to the bye-line. Adams was waiting for his cut back at the back post. He remained waiting.

Then Dykes, who could easily have had a hat-trick, had one of those balls he’s got to score from. That’s co-commentator, Ally McCoist’s words, not mine. Tierney pinged it in, the QPR strike is above his marker with enough pace from the ball for him to guide it into the net. He headed it straight at Marciano.

John McGinn, who scored a wonder goal, missed what for him would have been even more of a sitter. Ryan Christie, who came on for Adams, picked him out. From ten-yards he can’t find the net.

That looks about it. Six-minutes added time—Fergie time, and he was in attendance, in the stands, giving conspiracy theorist some slack to play with—and Manchester United player McTominay ghosts in at the back post to chest the ball home from a Jack Hendry flick on. I rarely enjoy a Scotland game. The last time Leigh Griffiths scored two late free kicks against England and Celtic keeper, Joe Hart. There was still enough time for England to grab a draw. Here there wasn’t. Great game. Great win. (Whisper it, terrible defending).

Can we beat the Faroes? Can we finish second in this group? Only if we go back to being boring old Scotland and dragging things out to our opponents concede. Safe to say, Dykes will no longer be taking Scotland penalties or Stephen Clarke’s an Englishman. Cue the QPR striker stepping up in our next match? Possibly.

LaLa Land, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Damien Chazelle.


Only in LaLa land  at the Oscars could LaLa Land best picture announced, could it turn out to be LaLa Land  winner and  LaLa Land loser,  all within five minutes. It wasn’t Best Picture. But was it a good picture?

Not bad. I’m not really into music. Put it this way, the director of Singin’ in the Rain Stanley Donen died and tributes poured in. Singin’ in the Rain in 1952 was a classic of the Hollywood musical genre. You’d Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers that could do everything that Astaire did but backwards and in six inch heels. Then you’d Gene Kelly that could do everything Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers could do and he really could sing and act the bejesus off everybody else. You even had Debbie Reynolds and Danny Kaye, as fall woman and fall guy. Where do you stop in LaLa Land?

Well, the plot is much the same in every boy meet girl movie.  Sebastian ( Ryan Gosling) loves Mia (Emma Stone) Mia love Sebastian. All you need is the set up. Stuck in a traffic jam, he toots his horn, she gives him the finger. She works in a coffee shop, he plays piano for pennies (or tips) Christmas background music in a restaurant.

But she wants to be an actress and continually goes for auditions only to be turned down because she’s not pretty enough or not quite what they’re looking for. Mia isn’t Hollywood pretty, she’s not Debbie Reynold’s pretty and certainly not Audrey Hepburn beautiful, but she has nice big eyes and I like ginger hair. So she’s cute, rather than pretty. But she’s dressed in primary colours, often green which suits her complexion. And she’s meant to be every-woman.

This being a musical, she also needs to sing. Well, they famously dubbed over Audrey Hepburn in Pygmalion and  My Fair Lady. Julie Andrews, of The Sound of Music saving MGM and ‘Climb Every Mountain’ fame game, stepped into her shoes. Mia can’t really hold a tune to the level of Audrey, but god and Hollywood loves a trier.

Sebastian is the more be-pop of the two a jazz aficionado. Yeh, I don’t know what that mean either. Sebastian can’t sing or dance any better than Mia. Being a leading man is not the same as being the leading lady. He doesn’t have to be achingly beautiful. He can just play it cool. He says early in the film he couldn’t love anybody that didn’t love jazz. He wants to open a nightclub that would take jazz back to its roots and away from the mainstream. Mia, of course, says she hates jazz.

Then as she falls for Sebastian she falls for jazz too. The rest is schmaltz with a sliding door moment of what if. As a budding writer I’m better-versed than most in the LaLa propaganda that if you hope for something enough your dream will come true. We ain’t all Singin’ in the Rain, some of us keep our brain running. The exception to the rule rule never fails to generate a happy ending. Now we’re talking Pretty in Pink and Molly Ringwald another red head, but without the best picture nomination. Oh dear, the one that got away.