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Scotland will need nothing less than a victory in the second leg of their UEFA Women's Championships play-off tie after they were beaten 3-2 by Russia in the first leg at Tynecastle.
The result was a disappointing one on the day for a Scotland side which gave a good display against experienced opponents and only a moment of individual brilliance could separate the sides in a closely contested match.
The game could not have started any better for Scotland as they took the lead in the third minute as Joanne Love's low pass into the area was not cleared and the ball was latched onto by Pauline Hamill who swept her shot past Elvira Todua.
However Scottish celebrations were short lived, the lead lasting just three minutes before Olesya Kurochkina levelled the scores when she broke through to curl home a shot which gave Gemma Fay no chance.
Scotland reacted well to the setback and were soon back in front. After being awarded a free kick on the edge of the area for handball from a Megan Sneddon effort, Hamill stepped up to plant a delightful left foot shot over the wall and into the corner of the net for her second goal.
Natalia Mokshanova volleyed a shot just wide but Scotland continued to do most of the pressing with Kim Little prompting in midfield and Love looking extremely lively down the right.
However, Russia got the break they needed just after the half hour as Valentina Savchenkova tricked her way past Rhonda Jones and into the area where she was upended by Michelle Kerr. Mokshanova duly beat Fay from the resulting penalty and Russia were once more back on level terms.
It took a fine tackle from Jennifer Beattie to foil Savchenkova following a good Russian move but there were no further goals and a pulsating first half came to a close with the score locked at 2-2.
Scotland started the second half brightly with Sneddon slicing wide following good work by Hamill, but there was a scare at the other end as Savchenkova broke down the left and her cross just eluded the oncoming Mokshanova and Olga Petrova's shot was blocked by Beattie.
Petrova planted a left foot shot wide before Scotland hit back with Little firing a 25-yard free kick straight at Todua. Both teams continued to pass the ball around very well but both sets of defences remained tight at this stage and the game remained evenly balanced.
However the balance was tipped by a moment of brilliance in the 76th minute. Receiving the ball from a throw in, Natalia Barbashina beat the challenges of Kerr, Leanne Ross and Ifeoma Dieke before guiding a right foot shot past Fay for a superb individual goal to send Russia ahead for the first time.
Scotland came close to an equaliser as a long ball from Leanne Ross was raced onto by Hamill but her shot was touched into the side netting by Todua, although a goal kick was mistakenly awarded. A free kick from Sneddon was headed goalwards by Kerr but again Todua pulled off a fine save to keep her side in front.
As the game went into injury time, the pacey Petrova made a strong run into the area where her low centre picked out Mokshanova in front of goal but Fay came to the rescue of her side by blocking her shot with her legs to prevent a fourth goal. Scotland tried to hit back and Amy McDonald's header was saved by Todua, this proved to be the last touch of the match.
The second leg takes place on Thursday, at the Spartak Stadium in Nalchick and Scotland will already have a big boost ahead of the game - Julie Fleeting is back from suspension.
Scotland: Gemma Fay, Rhonda Jones (sub Kirsty McBride 64mins), Jennifer Beattie, Ifeoma Dieke, Michelle Kerr, Joanne Love, Natalie Ross (sub Leanne Ross 57mins), Kim Little, Megan Sneddon, Suzanne Grant (sub Amy McDonald 79mins), Pauline Hamill. Subs not used: Joanna Hutcheson, Julie Ferguson, Frankie Brown, Hayley Cunningham.
Russia: Elvira Todua, Oksana Shmachkova, Ksenia Tsybutovich, Anna Kozhnikova, Elena Suslova, Tatiana Skotnikova, Elena Fomina (sub Olga Sergaeva 86mins), Elena Morozova (sub Olga Petrova 47mins), Olesya Kurochkina (sub Natalia Brabashina 64mins), Valentina Savchenkova, Natalia Mokshanova. Subs not used: Elena Kochneva, Olga Poriadina, Ekaterina Sochneva, Olga Letyushova.
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