Alex McLeish shouldered the responsibility for Scotland’s footballing lesson against World Cup semi-finalists Belgium on Friday night.
The final warm-up game before Monday’s
The heaviest home defeat since a 5-0 loss to England 45 years ago, the Scots shot themselves in the foot by gifting possession to the team ranked second in the world for three of the four goals.
Alex McLeish has taken the blame for Scotland’s heaviest home defeat in 45 years on Friday
A series of mistakes allowed a relentless Belgium side to smash four past Scots at Hampden
Accepting the blame for encouraging his players to pass the ball out from the back, however, McLeish admitted: ‘Mistakes cost us. I thought we were doing okay in the first half and we made a mistake losing the goal.
‘At this level, against a team of that stature, the consequences are devastating. Sometimes, you get away with that four or five times at club level before you lose a goal. But, at this level, it has terrible consequences.
‘Mistakes are out of my control. But what we have encouraged is the lads to pass the ball.
‘We don’t want them to take risks. But if anybody is going to take the blame, it’s me for telling them they have to pass it.’
Starting the game well, the Scots then fell to pieces when Mousa Dembele picked off John McGinn for the opening goal on 28 minutes. Eden Hazard doubled the lead with a stunning strike early in the second half before further errors from Charlie Mulgrew and substitute Ryan Jack gifted a double to Michy Batshuayi.
‘I didn’t think John was in a risky situation – it was just a little bit of miscontrol,’ added McLeish. ‘He had a good game. But the guys have to learn fast.
Eden Hazard (centre) scored the pick of the bunch as Belgium ran out 4-0 winners on Friday
‘I know Charlie can pass the ball and he was just caught out with an interception – I don’t think he really connected with it properly. And then Ryan Jack got caught on the ball.
‘It’s big lessons – harsh lessons. Especially for the young ones. In my career I remember making mistakes and learning from them. They did me the world of good.
‘Some of them are young guys, they’ve just broken into the team over the last year or so.
‘They were playing against world superstars who have been together for a long time.’ Insisting there were positives to take from a demoralising, sobering defeat, McLeish expects his side to bounce back against the Albanians on Monday.
‘I praised them,’ he revealed. ‘I thought they did a lot of good things. They passed the ball well at times, we had some moments when we cut through Belgium and had three or four chances.
Michy Batshuayi (right, pictured with Thorgan Hazard) scored two of his country’s four goals
‘So there is no way they should be downhearted. They have to take credit from that in terms of the way they tried to play. I don’t want them just to lump it up the pitch.
‘If we are going to change, we have to try to do something new. The encouragement in training and over the last couple of months is that we have to use the ability we have with the ball to feet.’
The imperious Belgians now move on to play Iceland on Tuesday, with boss Roberto Martinez saying this was the ‘perfect exercise’.
He added: ‘After the emotional ride of the World Cup, we wanted to see how our players would react.
‘We were very clinical in front of goal and pressed the game really well.
‘As a new project, you have to be patient with Scotland. You can see what Alex McLeish is trying to do.
‘Scotland were very committed. I can see the quality of their group becoming very strong in the future.’ Leigh Griffiths, meanwhile, is expected to be fit to face Albania despite leaving the pitch at half-time as an injury precaution on Friday night.
The Celtic striker will be assessed on Saturday morning, McLeish admitting: ‘I’ve not heard from the physios. He wanted to play on to be fair to him, but I felt it was better to get him off and make sure we didn’t take any risks.’