Scotland's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ dreams have been left in tatters after they fell to a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Norway that left them with a mountain to climb if they are to make the finals.
Morten Gamst Pedersen grabbed a double for Norway but the Group 9 match turned in the first half when Gary Caldwell was sent off for two bookings inside a minute. Goals from John Arne Riise and Blackburn's Pedersen soon followed, with Erik Husekleep's first international goal in the second half and Pedersen's last-minute free-kick giving Norway a comfortable victory.
The Norwegians, with Egil Olsen back in charge, had started the match bottom of Group 9, but their win puts them just one point behind the Scots with just two games remaining, leaving George Burley's men in grave danger of missing out on a place in the play-offs for South Africa. The Netherlands, with a maximum 21 points, have already made sure of the automatic qualifying place from the group.
Scotland had started well and came close to taking the lead in the 16th minute. Kjetil Waehler made a mess of Callum Davidson's low cross into the box but just when it looked like Kenny Miller was going to tap the ball in, the defender recovered to block his shot.
With 24 minutes gone John Arne Riise's fizzing corner looked to be sneaking in at the back post but Kris Commons was there to clear the danger. Five minutes later, the former Liverpool player missed a golden chance to give Norway the lead. Magne Hoseth's deep cross found him unmarked at the back post but Riise volleyed high and wide from six yards out.
Despite being put under some pressure from the Norwegian direct tactics, the Scots defence seemed to be coping well before two minutes of madness saw them reduced to ten men and a goal behind. Burley had handed Steven Caldwell a place in the centre of the Scottish defence with his brother but the partnership only lasted 35 minutes after Gary was sent off. The referee had handed out a rash of yellow cards with Norway's John Carew, John Arne Riise and Magne Hoseth all going into the book before Gary Caldwell joined them for a reckless foul on Pedersen.
Less than a minute later, the Scotland defender was walking off the park for a needless tug on the shirt of Carew at the edge of the box. And from the resulting free-kick, John Arne Riise lashed in a fierce left-foot shot which took a wicked deflection off Scott Brown that sent goalkeeper David Marshall, who was making his competitive debut, the wrong way.
Things got worse for Scotland in first-half injury time when Pedersen made it 2-0 with a cool left-foot curling finish just inside the box. Burley threw caution to the wind in the second-half, replacing Steven Caldwell with Birmingham City's James McFadden, but with a man less Scotland struggled to create any clear-cut chances.
Norway, on the other hand, were comfortable in possession and it wasn't long before Husekleep increased their lead on the hour-mark. Aston Villa striker Carew showed great strength to hold off three Scottish defenders before unleashing a shot that hit both posts, and Husekleep was there to lash in the rebound.
The Norwegians continued to push forward and Pedersen had his double in injury time when he curled a free-kick from the edge of the box into Marshall's top corner to make it 4-0.