Czech-mate for Caldwell?

IT proved a hugely frustrating afternoon for Latics’ Scottish international defender Gary Caldwell on Saturday.

Scotland boss Craig Levein criticised Dutch referee Kevin Blom after two controversial penalty incidents which “beggared belief” against Czech Republic at Hampden helped the visitors draw 2-2 to leave the hosts’ Euro 2012 hopes in tatters.

Captain Darren Fletcher had restored the home side’s lead in the 81st minute after Kenny Miller’s first-half opener had been cancelled out by Jaroslav Plasil.

With a minute to go, and the Tartan Army prepared to celebrate victory in the crunch Group I qualifier, Blom adjudged Scotland substitute Danny Wilson to have tripped Jan Rezek inside the box and Michal Kadlec equalised from the spot.

In a frantic finale as the home side piled forward looking for the winner, Blom booked Christophe Berra for simulation after the Scotland defender went to ground following a challenge in the Czech box by Roman Hubnik.

Scotland remain five points behind the second-placed Czechs and although Levein’s side have a game in hand against Lithuania at Hampden tomorrow, they are left probably having to win away against runaway group leaders Spain in their last game to have any chance of a play-off spot.

However, Levein was in no doubt as to who was to blame for the Scots’ predicament.

He said: “I couldn’t see the first one, whether there was contact on their player but I could see there was contact on Christophe.

“But I saw them again on television. There was no contact on their player and there was contact on Christophe.

“So you would need to ask the referee why he made such two such major, major mistakes.

“It beggars belief that he could make two mistakes of such magnitude.”

There was better news for Caldwell’s club team-mate James McCarthy at the weekend as his Republic of Ireland Under-21 side got off to a perfect start in their Euro 2013 qualifiers with a 2-1 home win against Hungary.

Rhys Murphy marked his first Under-21 cap with the winning goal after Robbie Brady fired the hosts into an early lead.

LATICS midfielder Hendry Thomas was sent off as his Honduras team were beaten 2-0 by Colombia in an international friendly fixture on Saturday.