Scotland’s opening Euro 2016 qualifier ended in defeat by world champions Germany thanks to two goals from Thomas Muller.
He headed the opener in a first half completely dominated by the hosts.
The Scots rode their luck in the first half but lifted their game after the break and levelled through Ikechi Anya.
But poor defending allowed Muller to fire in from close range to seal a narrow win, with Charlie Mulgrew sent off in stoppage time for the visitors.
The result is no disgrace and nor was the Scots’ performance after half-time, when they seemed to find a belief that they could hurt their illustrious opponents.
And so they did when Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher came off the bench and released winger Anya with a wonderful pass.
The Watford player, racing from the halfway line, still had plenty to do but as he approached Manuel Neuer’s goal he showed terrific composure to slide the ball into the net.
That cancelled out Muller’s early opener, which arrived despite two earlier warnings.
The German forward had twice got his head to dangerous crosses – the first a bad miss, the second cleared to safety – before the third landed in David Marshall’s net.
Anya – not for the first time – afforded midfielder Sebastian Rudy far too much time and space on the German right and his measured cross found Muller climbing between Alan Hutton and Russell Martin to loop a header over the keeper.
If the Scots defended that one poorly, the loss of the second was calamitous. A corner from the right was not cleared and the ball fell kindly to Muller who gleefully popped the ball past the Scotland number one after 18 minutes.
Marshall had kept his side in the game with a string of terrific saves, withMarco Reus a particular goal threat.
Germany’s front four – Reus, Muller, Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze – were irresistible at times, combining seemingly effortlessly and leaving the Scots defenders bamboozled by their movement.
Nonetheless, there were occasional glimpses of Neuer’s goal for the visitors, Barry Bannan seeing an early shot deflected just wide and Anya passing up two good opportunities, one when Neuer was yards out of his penalty area but the winger took a heavy touch and the chance was gone.
Scotland might have had an equaliser in the opening moments of the second period at the end of a superb, penetrating run down the right by Alan Hutton.
He picked out Steven Naismith, who drifted away from two defenders before unleashing a low shot past Neuer but agonisingly a matter of inches wide of the post.
Marshall was twice made to work by Gotze either side of Muller’s second and there could have been a hat-trick for Muller himself, only for the post to deny him just after Mulgrew was red carded for a second bookable offence – kicking the ball away.
And though the outcome was a fair one on the balance of play, Scotland did cause numerous problems for a shaky German defence and can take confidence from the way they matched the World Cup winners after the interval.
Source: BBC Sport