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Aaron Ramsey in sublime form as Wales tear sorry Scotland apart
* Edwards 17,
* Andy Hunter at Cardiff City Stadium
Simon Church Simon Church (in red) scores Wales' second goal against Scotland in the friendly international in Cardiff. Photograph: Stephen Pond/Empics Sport
George Burley called this the first step on the road to Poland and Ukraine 2012, but there must be renewed doubt over whether he can survive the journey after this humiliation. While John Toshack was treated to a performance that belied Wales' youth and inexperience, Burley endured torment. This was the day the last vestiges of support for the Scotland manager evaporated among the Tartan Army.
Reprieved after the failure to secure a World Cup play-off place in September – and only on the thin basis of two encouraging displays against Macedonia and Holland – Burley's men were torn apart by the majestic Aaron Ramsey and a Wales team who were precisely that. Scotland, by contrast, were a shambolic collection of individuals who were either out of their depth or, worse, faint-hearted. The first half proved too much for one Scotland fan, who invaded the pitch in protest and was dragged away by three stewards as he dug his heels into the turf. He was the only Scot who did.
"You look to take positives out of these games, but I can't find any," conceded Burley, whose record now stands at just three wins in 14 matches. "We started OK for 20 minutes, then folded like a pack of cards, conceded three goals and never recovered. The first half, in particular, was terrible."
So bad, in fact, that, for the first time in his turbulent reign, Burley was subject to open hostility and calls to quit from travelling fans. The Tartan Army have risen up before, notably after the 4-0 defeat in Norway, although the ire then was reserved for the Scottish Football Association's hierarchy. Here, it was solely on Burley's head.
"I'm not surprised by that," he added. "When you are manager of a team that performs like that, you've got to expect it." Asked if he expected to remain at the helm, Burley responded: "That's up to other people, isn't it?"
The visitors' abject display was encapsulated in the events surrounding Wales' third goal in 18 first-half minutes. James McFadden was easily dispossessed in the centre-circle and only ambled back to help his defence, a moment that triggered more boos from the Tartan Army. When Scotland eventually retrieved possession, debutant Danny Fox played a careless pass from left-back, behind Darren Fletcher, and Ramsey pounced. Already confirmed as the finest talent on the pitch by some distance, the Arsenal midfielder beat Scotland's captain twice, Stephen McManus once and found the bottom corner of David Marshall's goal. "You don't know what you're doing," sang a packed travelling section towards Burley. That was the politest chant reserved for the Scotland manager.
It seemed astonishing by the interval, but Wales had started on the back foot as Scotland's greater experience showed. McFadden and the woeful Kenny Miller had excellent chances in the opening five minutes, the former being denied by the legs of Wayne Hennessey and the latter shooting wide from 12 yards out. Their promising beginning then became an illusion as the contest justified Toshack's vision of a bright, rewarding future for this young Wales side.
Scotland's left flank of Fox and Steven Naismith had offered Wales rich encouragement even while their side dominated the early exchanges. Once Ramsey began to exert his influence, the visitors were easily dissected. The Wales captain Ashley Williams helped release Ramsey behind Fox and the 18-year-old's low cross was swept in by David Edwards.
Ramsey was then involved in goal number two. A threaded pass sent his former Cardiff team-mate Joe Ledley clear inside the Scotland area and another low cross, this time from the left, enabled Simon Church to steer home his first international goal at the near post.
Scotland were then lucky not to concede a penalty for a push on Church and luckier still when Marshall was only booked for handling outside his area as the substitute Sam Vokes sprinted clear. "I don't think we were as comfortable as 3-0 suggests," said Toshack. Empathy among the managers' union clearly knows no bounds.
Taken from the Guardian/Observer