Football: Asprilla spoils day for Scots

Phil Shaw reports from Miami Colombia 1 Scotland 0
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In a cameo as brief as it was beautiful and cruel, depending on your allegiance, Scotland learned why Kevin Keegan coveted Faustino Asprilla and had their run in the build up to Euro 96 extended to four defeats in five friendlies.

With only eight minutes left, the torrential rain still lashed the Orange Bowl as if it were a scene from Key Largo. Cut to Newcastle's controversial Colombian, swaying like a palm tree in a storm for just long enough to swerve past Andy Goram and settle the match as ruthlessly as Bogart settling a score.

Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, hailed Asprilla's goal as "a pounds 7m finish", but was not merely putting a brave face on his disappointment when he said that the exercise had otherwise been a success. For this was the best Scottish performance since the draw in Russia 15 months ago, as fluid and controlled as Sunday's setback against the United States had been staccato.

The principal plus point was the form of Goram. If that gives the impression that Colombia might have won more convincingly, it is misleading. The Rangers goalkeeper, starting an international for the first time in 18 months, exuded authority and made a brilliant save early on to tip a ferocious drive by Adolfo Valencia on to the bar.

Tosh McKinlay, winning only his fourth cap, enhanced his claim to the left wing-back role with a succession of strong runs and crosses. The heart of the team, Gary McAllister and John Collins, also beat more purposefully than for some time, although the dearth of goals remains a worry.

Scotland actually created the better chances, the easiest falling to Ally McCoist midway through the first half. Stuart McCall's chipped pass was headed across goal by John Spencer. McCoist, six yards out with only Farid Mondragon to beat, volleyed against the keeper's chest as he dived more in hope than expectation.

Mondragon had earlier saved well from Spencer, while it took a last-ditch intervention by Jorge Bemudez to prevent McCoist testing him after Colin Hendry's surge out of defence had taken Colombia unawares. Such scares, allied to the desire to monitor the condition of his squad prior to Sunday's World Cup qualifier in Peru, prompted Hernan Dario Gomez to ring the changes at half-time.

For a while, Scotland were forced on to the back foot. Twelve minutes after their only clear-cut opening of the second half, a free header directed wide by Colin Calderwood, Carlos Valderrama's corkscrew thatch rose to send Asprilla racing clear. What followed should, if nothing else, stimulate Tyneside's jaded palate.

Brown said: "Colombia in Miami is virtually an away fixture, yet we made more chances and reduced them to long range in the first half. I watched their game at Wembley on video and we did better against them than England, but you have to put your chances away at this level.

"The only time we were in difficulty was when they brought on the big names and the crowd got behind them. We could easily have had three victories going into Euro 96 if we'd picked teams like Hungary."

COLOMBIA (4-4-2): Mondragon (Independiente); Ortiz, Bemudez, Cassiani, Moreno (all America Cali); Rincon (Real Madrid), Serna (Nacional Medellin), Estrada, Mafla (both Deportivo Cali); Valenciano (Junior Barranquila), Valencia (Santa Fe). Substitutes: Alvarez (Dallas Burn) for Mafla, h-t; Aristizabal (Nacional Medellin) for Valenciano, h-t; Asprilla (Newcastle) for Valencia, h-t; Herrera (Nacional Medellin) for Ortiz, h-t; Mendoza (Junior Barranquila) for Cassiani, h-t; Valderrama (Tampa Bay Mutiny) for Estrada, h-t.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Goram (Rangers); Calderwood (Tottenham), Hendry (Blackburn), Boyd (Celtic); McKimmie (Aberdeen), McCall (Rangers), McAllister (Leeds), Collins, T McKinlay (both Celtic); Spencer (Chelsea), McCoist (Rangers). Substitutes: Burley (Chelsea) for Hendry, h-t; Jess (Coventry) for Spencer, 69; Gallacher (Blackburn) for McCoist, 61.

Referee: R Dominguez (US).

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