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16 of 021

Maxi Rodriguez ensures Diego Maradona starts Argentina tenure with win in Scotland

Scotland (0) 0 Argentina (1) 1

By Roddy Forsyth at Hampden Park
For all the manic hype that had preceded it, Diego Maradona's debut as an international coach was a surprisingly low key affair, defused by an early strike by Maximiliano Rodríguez for the only goal of the evening, one which deprived the Tartan Army of such passion as they had mustered against a raw, gusty and wet Glasgiow winter's evening. Once the contest had crept to its rather laboured conclusion, Maradona embraced George Burley in fraternal fashion and then treated his players to warm hugs was they left the pitch, but how much either manager could take from the occasion was a moot point.

Scotland’s lamentable record in Hampden friendlies was extended – they have failed to win one in 12 years – and they still have only a single victory to show for their seven outings under George Burley, a record the manager has no possibility of improving until March, when Scotland take on the Dutch in the unromising surroundings of the Amsterdam Arena.

The massed ranks of photographers, corralled to one side of the technical areas – and supplemented by a throng of amateur snappers in the adjacent stand – were fixated on Maradona but also watchful for any kind of interaction between him and Terry Butcher. The pair came within a few feet of each other in the tunnel as the teams completed their warm-ups but there was certainly no hint of reconciliation on the part of the former England captain, now Scotland assistant manager, who strode past the man he publicly branded as a cheat, with his eyes resolutely fixed on the floor.

Maradonna himself largely maintained a measured demeanour as he sat with arms folded in the technical area through out the first half, punctuating his impassivity occasionally to bawl sudden instructions to his players, although it was doubtful that any of these commands were audible to their intended recipients. He did, however, deign to stand with his arms aloft in the ninth minute when Argentina took the lead after a meticulously composed build-up on their right where Carlos Tevez switched the direction of the thrust infield to Jonas Guttierez, whose layoff to Rodriguez left the Atletico Madrid man a simple task to drive low under the exposed Allan McGregor.

At that stage, Argentina were value for their lead, having settled into the contest faster than the hosts. Indeed, the difficulty for the Scots was to get across the halfway line in any cohesive fashion and maintain possession once into Argentinian territory.

Scotland were arrayed in a 4-4-2 deployment, which looked much more suited to their strengths than the 4-1-4-1 formation that served them poorly in the first half of their previous outing, the World Cup qualifier against Norway. The man whose name will be indelibly linked with that occasion – Chris Iwelumo, author of the worst miss at Hampden in living memory – was partnered with James McFadden, the Scots’ top scorer – in attack.

The midfield quartet had a balanced look, with Barry Ferguson – on his first appearance under Burley – operating in the central area alongside Paul Hartley, with Scott Brown on the right and Kris Commons stationed on the left. In defence, the question of whether or not Alan Hutton would be restored at the expense of Kirk Broadfoot was answered with the selection of both full backs, Broadfoot switching to the left to replace Gary Naysmith, who was on the bench.

With Gary Caldwell and Steven McManus pairing again in central defence, there was sufficient familiarity amongst the Scots to offset to a fair degree the loss of such likely starters as Darren Fletcher, Barry Robson, Kenny Miller and Craig Gordon. However, the same slow start that characterised the World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Norway was again in evidence as Argentina forced the first corner kick of the game in the second minute and were soon in motion towards the Scottish box, with Rodriguez forcing a full stretch block from McGregor and Ezequiel Lavezzi pitched his shot from the rebound too high to trouble the goalkeeper.

It took Scotland until midway through the half to generate enough menace to threaten Juan Pablo Carrizo in the Argentine goal. Burley's players had begun to bed themselves in with a period of possession play that generated cheers from the crowd as each Scot gathered the ball but the first threat came when Commons tried to find McFadden inside the penalty area.

Martin Demichelis read the intention perfectly but inexplicably chose to amble across his goalmouth and despite a shrieked warning from Carrizo, he was ambushed by McFadden, who pinched the ball off his toes. The Birmingham City forward swivelled and shot, but Dimichelis redeemed himself with an athletic twist that allowed him to stick out a foot to deflect the effort wide for a corner kick.

Scotland's confidence increased in direct proportion to the amount of possession they began to command and they contrived a fine opportunity to equalise shortly after the half hour when they won a free kick from a Guttierez foul on Hutton. Commons came to the right to pitch an inswinging deliver over the Argentine defence towards Broadfoot, arriving blindside at the back post.

However, the Rangers full back got his body shape all wrong and tried to take the chance with his right foot, when a simple contact with his left would almost certainly have produced the desired result and he pushed his attempt tamely wide.

Match details

Scotland (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Caldwell, McManus (Berra 74), Broadfoot; Brown (Alexander 82), Ferguson (Robertson 58), Hartley (Maloney 58), Commons; McFadden (Clarkson 66), Iwelumo (Miller h-t).
Subs: Marshall (g), Naysmith, Barr, McAllister.
Booked: Caldwell, Robertson.
Argentina (4-3-3): Carrizo; Zanetti, Demichelis, Heinze, Papa (Diaz 85); Rodriguez, Mascherano, Gago, Gutierrez (Gonzalez 70); Lavezzi (Denis 74), Tevez.
Subs: Romero (g), Coloccini, Villagra, Burdisso, Sosa, Lopez, Montenegro.
Referee: F Brych, Germany

Taken from

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