Football: Gallacher spurns his Capitol chance

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The Independent Online
United States 0

Scotland 0

Attendance: 46,037

SCOTLAND emerged sunburnt but unbeaten from their American mini- tour after matching the United States blow for blow in the searing heat of the Robert F Kennedy Stadium yesterday.

At the home of the Redskins, Craig Brown's World Cup contenders seldom appeared likely to be ambushed by an American side lying 11th compared with Scotland's 41st position in Fifa's world rankings. Roy Wegerle did quiver Jim Leighton's crossbar early on, although against that Kevin Gallacher wasted the chance of the match in the second half.

The 46,037 crowd did witness the favourites to win the global prize when the US women - tipped to regain their title on home soil next year - trounced New Zealand 5-0 in the first half of a double-header. Not that the spectators needed warming up: the temperature was nudging 90 degrees, with humidity stifling.

Between the two games came an extraordinary pageant that would not have been out of place at an Olympic opening ceremony. Amid the flags and fireworks, each member of the US squad for France was introduced by a deafening blast from a cannon. American excess? That'll do nicely.

Combustible moments were scarcer once the main event got under way. The conditions dictated that the match was played at the kind of pace Bill Clinton works up when jogging on Capitol Hill. Even so, Scotland survived a scare in the opening 30 seconds when Ernie Stewart materialised in their penalty area with the ball. His hurried shot cleared the bar and the contest settled in to a slow stalemate.

The Americans dominated the first half territorially, their much-vaunted 3-6-1 formation proving more than simply a system designed to flood midfield. Tab Ramos and Stewart were quick to support Wegerle, the former Premiership striker, while Cobi Jones's trademark dreadlocks popped up on both flanks.

Midway through the first half, a deep cross by Ramos was nodded back across goal by Wegerle. His one-time Blackburn colleague, Colin Hendry, averted the danger with a typically fearless clearing header.

The Americans were visibly encouraged. Moments later, another centre by Ramos again found Wegerle lurking with intent. His shot, from the angle of the six-yard box, shook the woodwork only for the rebound to fall badly for Stewart.

Scotland threatened only once before the interval. Kevin Gallacher's cross found Christian Dailly charging in, but the wing-back's header was wayward. Perhaps surprisingly in view of the suffocating atmosphere, Scotland had then edge on their hosts until the final 15 minutes. On the hour, indeed, they ought to have gone in front. Darren Jackson, creator of both Scottish goals in last weekend's 2-2 draw with Colombia, sprang the offside trap to send Gallacher clear. Perhaps the Blackburn striker expected a linesman's flag; maybe he had too long ponder his options. Either way, he shot straight at Kasey Keller, who blocked with his legs.

Dailly, who had exerted an industrious presence on the left, switched wings to accommodate Jackie McNamara. The Derby man, normally so impressive in the air, glanced another header wide from a McNamara free-kick. He also found the energy to make a powerful surge through the centre of the American defence, his run ending with an astute pass to the supporting Gallacher. Again, alas, the ensuing drive presented Keller with a routine save.

Eric Wynalda, on for his 100th cap, and Jones, a veteran of 106 internationals despite his failure to establish himself at Coventry, both had opportunities to kill the contest as the Scots faded during final 15 minutes. The substitute shot wide after a clever, twisting run, while Jones brought a fine low save from Leighton.

Scotland were thus spared a defeat which would have been both undeserved and ill-timed with their French adventure imminent. Brown has seen much to hearten him during the Scots' 10-day sojourn in the States, with morale clearly unaffected by the Andy Goram saga. However, Scotland have not won in five matches since qualifying for the finals, and their lack of goals continues to cast a shadow over their preparations.