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Freelance Match Report
By Stuart Fraser
20th November 2008

It was the game everyone was talking about or maybe rather, the man that everyone was talking about.

Diego Armando Maradona returned to Hampden Park last night 29 years after he scored his first international goal at Scotland’s national stadium in a 3 – 1 win for the South Americans and left last night after a comfortable 1 – 0 win in his first match as the new Argentina coach.

Argentina were obviously keen to impress the new man at the helm and had Scotland on the back foot early. Maxi Rodriguez showed his keepie-up skills in the first few minutes before setting up Javier Mascherano for a powerful volley which Alan McGregor palmed away to his right.

The inevitable then happened in the eighth minute. Carlos Tevez played the ball to Newcastle’s Jonas Guiterrez who laid it off for Rodriguez to slot the ball home past McGregor. A typical South American goal which was simply beautiful.

Scotland were pinned so far back that the Tartan Army got excited whenever their team managed to pass the halfway line. The players in dark blue then managed to string around ten passes together with each pass receiving sarcastic cheers from the Hampden crowd after a mesmerising opening spell from the Argentines.

Tevez was proving a menace for the Scottish defence and in the 19th minute, he played a perfectly weighted pass for Ezequiel Lavezzi to run onto but the Napoli striker’s shot was hit straight at McGregor’s legs.

George Burley’s side finally managed to get their first shot two minutes later. Kris Commons played a cross in from the left for James McFadden who took a touch before shooting towards goal on the turn but the ball deflected off Martin Demechelis and out for the corner which came to nothing.

After a shaky start in the first twenty minutes, Scotland were starting to string passes together which they were previously unable to do. The increase in possession helped them to push forward and it was the Argentines who were being pushed back.

Two corners came and went without success for Scotland and a Commons free kick just managed to evade the boot of Kirk Broadfoot at the back post.

Despite Scotland’s best efforts though, there was a very noticeable difference in quality and the Argentine’s movement and quick passing were way beyond the capabilities of Messrs Ferguson, Hutton, Brown and co.

Scotland were lumping balls forward in search of the head of Chris Iwelumo and this tactic nearly worked in the 41st minute.  The Wolves striker nodded it on, Demechelis took a touch too many and was robbed of the ball by McFadden but the Birmingham man’s shot from around 15 yards was stopped comfortably by Juan Pablo Carrizo.

Gary Caldwell then received the first booking of the match in the 44th minute after a late challenge on Tevez just past the halfway line. German Referee Felix Brych didn’t allow time though for the free kick and blew his whistle for half time.

Burley decided to hand Lee Miller his second cap replacing Iwelumo with the Aberdeen striker in time for the start of the second half.

The Scottish play was similar to the end of the first half with the players in dark blue trying to pin the Argentines back in search for the equaliser. You had to feel though that the South Americans were in cruise control and could step it up a gear or two or maybe several.

Commons was proving very lively on the wing and his free kick in the 52nd minute found Miller in the box who headed the ball down for McFadden but Carrizo managed to clear the danger by palming it away

Captain Barry Ferguson was failing to make any sort of impact on the game, perhaps due to a lack of match fitness having only recently returned for Rangers, and was replaced just before the hour mark by international debutant Scott Robertson. Shaun Maloney also replaced club team-mate Paul Hartley.

McFadden was also another Scot who, despite his best efforts, was struggling to break through the Argentine back line and he was also taken off by Burley in the 67th minute for David Clarkson.

Miller then had two opportunities to grab the equaliser for Scotland. His shot from the edge of the box was deflected out for the corner and the Aberdeen striker then put his header wide from Maloney’s in-swinger.

The game settled down after this and both sides, although still pushing forward to an extent, were comfortable with passing the ball around whilst in possession.

Maradona was happy with his team’s performance after the match and also gave his thoughts on Scotland. He said: “I think Scotland are a fine side with some good players but I think technically we were better than them tonight, perhaps at a different level of skill. Maybe they have got a bit of work to do.”

Despite the score, Burley was still happy with the benefit of the match to his team ahead of a crucial world cup qualifier away to Holland in March. He said: “I think there were a lot of bonuses tonight including looking at a few new players which was great. We are going to go into the Holland game in a good mood after playing one of the best teams in the world.”

SCOTLAND: McGregor, Hutton, Caldwell, McManus (Berra 75), Broadfoot, Ferguson (Robertson 59), Brown (Alexander 83), Hartley (Maloney 59), Commons, Iwelumo (Miller 45), McFadden (Clarkson 67).

Subs not used: Marshall, Naysmith, Barr, McAllister.

Yellow Cards: Caldwell 44, Robertson 88.

ARGENTINA: Carrizo, Zanetti, Demichelis, Heinze, Papa (Diaz 86), Mascherano, Gago, Gutierrez (Gonzalez 71), Rodriguez (Sosa 90), Lavezzi (Denis 75), Tevez.

Subs not used: Romero, Coloccini, Villagra, Burdisso, Lopez, Montenegro.

Goals: Rodriguez 8.


REFEREE: Felix Brych (Germany)