Slovenia 2-2 Scotland: heartbreak for the Tartan Army in Ljubljana
Scotland needed three points to clinch a playoff place for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Gordon Strachan's side, however, could only claim one point against Slovenia as their qualification hopes shattered. They have been waiting 17 years to play in the World Cup finals again, and the Tartan Army will have to wait longer after they finished third in Group F, falling behind Slovakia on goal difference.
They entered the heartbreaking game on an five-game unbeaten run, winning four of their six qualifiers in 2017 and drawing the other against England. Slovakia, meanwhile, only had a long-shot hope for a playoff place, but the home side still put on a valiant performance, denying the Tartan Army their place.
Leigh Griffiths opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark when he reacted to a Darren Fletcher header. The Celtic striker was able to latch on to the head flick from his captain, and from an angle, drove the ball low on the half-volley past goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Slovenia threatened Craig Gordon at the other end, with the Celtic goalkeeper forced into saves from Josip Iličić and Rajko Rotman at each side of half-time – the latter attempting an ambitious shot from way out, causing Gordon to push it over the crossbar.
The home side's chances eventually paid off when Roman Bezjak scored on the 52nd minute. The substitute was on hand - or head - to nod in a sweeping free-kick from Iličić at the back post. He doubled his tally, and gave Slovenia the lead, 20 minutes later from a corner. The SV Darmstadt 98 striker reacted to a loose ball in the penalty area, gently tapping in and evading the Scotland defenders in the crowded six-yard box.
Robert Snodgrass gave the Tartan Army hope on the 88th minute when the 30-year-old hooked in a late equaliser. He was sent through by a beautiful ball from Fletcher just inside the Slovenia half, managing to chest the ball down and hit over Oblak into the net.
Slovenia were reduced to 10-men when their captain Bostjan Cesar received a straight red card two minutes into extra time. He clashed with Christophe Berra after the home side were incessantly fouling the Scots as they chased a winner, and a playoff place. The Chievo defender wasted time to the frustration of the visitors by refusing to leave the pitch.
Scotland's frantic chasing for an equaliser, however, proved fruitless, despite their best efforts, as they missed out on a playoff place and potential qualification for the World Cup yet again.