‘Referee changed his mind’ – Scots rue VAR chaos

Every Scottish soul in the place knew what was coming.

The two giant screens inside Seville’s Estadio de La Cartuja, a pair of roja harbingers of doom, flashed up ‘VAR check in progress’.

Beneath one of them, a navy blue sea of bobbing arms and swinging legs shuddered to a bone-trembling halt as they gazed upwards. First to the screen, then to the heavens.

Seconds earlier, Scott McTominay’s sensational whipped free-kick looked to have the Scots 1-0 up with half an hour to play in Spain. Half an hour from the European Championships. Half an hour from history.

Yet, referee Serdar Gozubuyuk and his VAR team had other ideas. As soon as the Dutch official trotted to the pitchside monitor, Scotland’s luck, which had been wielded with some sorcery all evening, eventually deserted them.

Confusion reigned in the immediate melee, and even in the aftermath there appeared to be little clarity as to why the goal, which was then followed by two at the other end to delay the visitors’ qualification, was ruled out.

“That changes the whole night,” manager Steve Clarke told BBC Scotland.

Clarke’s side, who just needed a point to reach Germany next year, had more than a bit of luck during a dogged defensive display in a first half during which captain Andy Robertson departed through injury.

But the complexion of this game changed when McTominay lashed into the top corner only for it to not count. Was Jack Hendry offside? Did he interfere with play? Did he foul the Spain goalkeeper?

“McTominay’s fine free-kick is so close to being a super goal,” said Clarke.

“Initially, Jack is a centimetre offside. Then when he steps towards the keeper they’ve asked the referee to look at it. They’ve interpreted Jack as interfering with the keeper. I’m not sure the goalie is saving that shot anyway.”

‘That’s the thing that stings’

Scotland midfielder John McGinn claimed the referee changed his mind, adding: “Every Scottish person would be frustrated watching that. The goal, you think you’ve got a goal to qualify. Unbelievable strike from Scotty. No keeper in the world is saving that.

“The referee decides it’s a foul. During the game he changes his mind to say it’s an offside. Not sure how clear that is. That’s the thing that stings really. We get the big moment, we score. Jack’s right leg is offside, but it’s very, very harsh.”

Watching from his lofty perch in the press box, BBC Sport Scotland pundit Steven Thompson said: “You’re kidding me. You are kidding me. From such a high to a low in seconds.”

Former Scotland talisman James McFadden added on Sportscene: “The referee points for a foul. It’s not a foul, for a start.

“And then it seems to be disallowed for interfering from an offside position. Jack Hendry is in an offside position, and he does make contact with the goalkeeper so technically he is interfering.

“But does the goalkeeper have any intent to come and get it? I don’t think he does.”

Sadly for the Scots, it triggered a downward spiral of disappointment that grew as the game went on.

Alvaro Morata steered in the opener with his head, Ryan Porteous slid a clearance into his own net as he scrambled to clear, while Che Adams failed to take a glorious chance which would have levelled the game.

Now it’s all eyes on Norway against Spain on Sunday, with anything but a Norwegian winning sending Clarke’s team, who themselves have two games left, to Germany.

“Scotland will feel fed up tonight, that’s two losses in a row but it’s Spain and England,” said former Scotland winger Pat Nevin.

“You could see what Scotland were trying to do. It was a grown-up plan which didn’t quite come off.

“Steve Clarke can say to the players: ‘If we beat Georgia, we’re through.’ You’d have taken that at the start of the campaign.”