USA break Scottish hearts as they progress to the IFA U17 World Cup final
If their earlier meeting was anything to go by then the IFA U17 World Cup semi final promised to be somewhat of a spectacle. Nothing could separate the two in the opening match and for a time it looked as though that might be the case this evening until a Luca Scotzniovsky strike, three minutes from time, proved to be the winner.
The encounter took no time whatsoever in sparking to life, with Jonathan Franco hitting the post in the second minute, and the opening goal arriving in the minute following. Carlos Armendariz showed skill to beat the last man before placing the ball through the legs of Scotland goalkeeper Lewis Forbes.
Scotland responded like a wounded animal, equalising almost immediately. Liam Kelly broke clear following neat play and dispatched the ball into the bottom left corner.
The match continued at a high tempo for much of the first half with both sides keeping the opposition goalkeeper busy. Callum Downie showed vision to switch the play to Kelly, who bent his effort inches over the bar. Armendariz then navigated space on the left to force a smart save from Forbes.
USA pushed their noses in front in the ninth minute. An excellent interchange from Pablo Altamontes and Scotzniovsky saw the latter shoot from a tight angle. The finish had beaten the goalkeeper but Altmontes bundled home to make sure there could be no last ditch clearance.
As the half wore on Scotland pressed higher up the court, looking to force the USA into making an error. It almost paid off when Sam Noble found Kelly with a cute pass through the middle. Kelly held off his man well but could only angle his effort marginally wide.
With six minutes to go until the half, the tie began to resemble a boxing match – two seasoned fighters landing punches but no knockout blow. The dangerous Scotzniovsky latched onto a return ball and forced Forbes into a magnificent fingertip save. Cammy Robertson then shot from range but Alejandro Gonzalez leapt to his left to turn it round the post.
The final opportunity of the half would fall to the Scots. Downie passed the ball to Kelly, who returned the ball instantly. Downie bore down on goal but could only direct his effort over the bar, meaning that USA retained their lead going into the break.
Half Time: Scotland 1-2 USA
The opening ten minutes of the second half witnessed few clear-cut chances. Sam Pirrie found some room at the back post, in the 26th minute, before being crowded out by the USA defence. The captain opted to lay the ball back to Kelly who drilled an effort just wide of the target.
Trickery from Daniel Gilbride dragged players out of position and freed up Kelly again. Gilbride released the Scotland forward and it was so nearly another equaliser but his effort cracked the post.
Scotland had what they so desired in the 32nd minute, however, with Kelly at the heart of the attack again. Good movement from the player on the left created an opening, allowing him to cut the ball back for Gilbride to calmly roll home.
Scotland sensed an opportunity to pile the pressure on and with that the match kick started. Downie scored a goal worthy of winning any game as he pirouetted to lose his man before unleashing a howitzer beyond Gonzalez and putting his side in front.
The USA responded immediately when Franco played a delicate ball in for Ricardo Duarte who showed exemplary composure to angle his finish into the bottom left corner.
Chances at both ends became more and more frequent with Alex Chingwalu’s strike from distance seemingly destined for the bottom right corner but for an agile Gonzalez save to turn it round the post. It was then Forbes’ turn to produce the goalkeeping heroics as he produced a fine double save, denying Armendariz from distance and then Scotzniovsky on the rebound from close range.
The USA would break Scottish hearts in the 38th minute. A set piece routine saw Scotzniovsky bend an effort towards goal, which took a kind deflection before nestling into the net.
Scotland were not prepared to concede defeat, however, as they opted to use their designated outfield player in the form of Pirrie. This allowed them to stretch the USA, piling on the pressure, and they thought they had the goal they so craved in the last few seconds. Downie danced past two players and struck the ball towards goal but the USA defence defended for their lives and managed to somehow keep the ball out of the net.
The USA then held on to possession for the final seconds, guaranteeing them a place in the World Cup Final.
Full Time: Scotland 3-4 USA
Scotland: Lewis Forbes, Daniel Gilbride, Callum Downie, Cammy Robertson, Sam Pirrie, Sam Noble, Liam Kelly, Alex Chingwalu, Ross McLaren, Dell Newlands, Cameron Robertson, Blair McCord, Andrew Santos, Ciaran Pugh
Star Player: Kelly
USA: Alejandro Gonzalez, Diangelo Smith-Gleaves, Pablo Altamontes, Luca Scotzniovsky, Adrian Medina, Carlos Armendariz, Jonathan Franco, Ricardo Duarte
Star Player: Duarte