The nightmare in Norway - Norway 4 - 0 Scotland

It is often suprising in football just how frequently big games can hinge on small decisions.  

Amd so it proved in Oslo on Wednesday night, when Scotland were on top of their Norweigan counterparts for long spells of the game; before referee Alain Hamer booked defender Gary Caldwell twice in two minutes, the Scots fell apart and ended up on the reverse of a 4-0 hiding.  

“We’ve suffered a defeat that we didn’t deserve,” said Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher, who captained his country in Norway.  

“The lads played well, everyone gave it their all – but in the end the refereeing decisions have changed the game.  

“I don’t know how many big games he has to take care of every season in Luxembourg.”  

The answer to Fletcher’s question - awkwardly timed given the Premier League’s new set of directives prohibiting the public criticism of match officials in English games - is that Hamer referees very few big games in his native country.

Criticism - Man Utd’s Fletcher

He does, however, take charge of domestic fixtures in the top leagues of France and Belgium - and refereed the last meeting between the two sides four years ago. Scotland won that game 2-1, also in Oslo, and Hamer received no complaints whatsoever.  

In reality, Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1998 now appear slender at best.  

The night had started brightly for Scotland. Both Fletcher and striker Kenny Miller had early chances to break the deadlock within the first quarter of an hour, backed by 3,500 travelling supporters in the Ullevaal Stadium.  

The game drastically turned just after the half hour mark.  

A minute after Caldwell had been booked after clashing with Morten Gamst Pedersen, he was sent off when Hamar adjudged him to have fouled John Carew 30 yards out.  

And Caldwell’s misery was completed when John Arne Riise scored with the resulting free-kick, albeit with a massive deflection off Scott Brown.  

“Gary wins the ball in his first tackle of the night and he gets a yellow card for it. Then the referee forgets he’s already booked him and gives him a second yellow card,” Fletcher said.  

“That’s when he realised he had to send him off. It was unbelievable. The bottom line is the ref got these big decisions wrong and he has cost us the game because of it.”  

With seconds remaining in the first half, Norway doubled their lead when John Arne’s brother Bjorn set up Pedersen, who slotted home from 14 yards.

Two-goal hero: Blackburn star Pedersen

Steven Caldwell was replaced by Burley in the second half, the Scotland manager fearing he may join his brother in the dressing room after a rash tackle, but his misery was compounded on the hour mark when John Carew broke through Scotland’s impoverished defence before unleashing a shot which hit both posts, leaving Erik Huseklepp an easy tap in. 

Hamer waved play on after Carew’s shot hit the bar and appeared to bounce over the line, but Norway put the game to bed in the final minute when Pedersen curled in his second of the game.

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