Scotland failed to get their 2014 World Cup Group A qualifying campaign off to a winning start on Saturday as they were held to a stalemate by Serbia at Hampden, Scotland.
Chances were few and far between in a cagey first half, but Scotland had ‘keeper Allan McGregor to thank early on when he stopped Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick while Vladimir Stojkovic blocked a Robert Snodgrass effort.
Kenny Miller, who had been favored up front instead of Blackburn Rovers’ prolific striker Jordan Rhodes, missed a host of second-half chances while Aleksandar Ignjovski and Kolarov came close at the other end.
Steven Naismith fired wide when one-on-one with the ‘keeper before substitute James Forrest’s stoppage time shot was parried by Stojkovic with Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic clearing the danger as Scotland, who host Macedonia tomorrow, had to settle for a point.
“We didn’t manage to get the three points and I’m disappointed, but more about the fact we had opportunities and didn’t take them,” Scotland manager Craig Levein said.
Sinisa Mihajlovic said a draw was a fair result.
“We made a few mistakes and Scotland had a few chances and we have to make changes and be better for the next matches,” the Serbian manager said.
McGregor recovered from a groin injury he picked up playing for the national team against Australia last month and the keeper proved his worth as early as the seventh minute when he got down low to his right to keep out a Kolarov free-kick which the Manchester City star had curled round the wall.
Paul Dixon was handed his first cap for Scotland by Levein and his cross caused confusion in the Serbian box after taking a deflection with Kolarov having to chest the ball out with James Morrison waiting to pounce at the far post.
A quickly taken free-kick from Charlie Adam released Snodgrass racing into the box, but he hit his angled shot off the chest of Stojkovic and wide.
Moments later Snodgrass sent over a cross that Naismith got the faintest of touches on as it trickled wide.
McGregor had to be alert when Darko Lazovic’s shot from just outside the box took a wicked deflection, but the ‘keeper managed to snuff out the danger.
Scotland pressed forward after the break and Miller was inches away from connecting with Christophe Berra’s header after the Wolves defender knocked a Snodgrass corner back across the goal.
Scotland ‘keeper McGregor was relieved to see Ignjovski’s shot go wide after the Werder Bremen midfielder cut in from the left and let fly with a fierce strike.
Morrison’s clever flick put Miller clear behind the Serbian defence, but Stojkovic was quick off his line to block his effort.
The same pair combined minutes later, but this time Miller misjudged the flight of the ball and failed to make contact when he was one-on-one with the ‘keeper 9m out.
Serbia took advantage of some hesitant Scottish defending with Kolarov gathering the ball inside the box and firing a first-time drive just wide of the post.
Scotland forward Naismith came agonizingly close to putting his side in front when he collected a Caldwell pass to race in on the goal, but he flicked his effort past Stojkovic and wide of the post.
With 10 minutes remaining Levein brought on Queen’s Park Ranger striker Jamie Mackie and Blackburn’s Rhodes for Miller and Morrison in a desperate bid to make the breakthrough.