The Netherlands. . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
THE gala reopening of Hampden Park proved something of a damp squib last night as far as hopes of a Scotland victory were concerned. Bryan Roy's exquisitely excecuted early goal, his third for The Netherlands, ensured that Craig Brown's first match as manager ended in defeat.
Scotland played with some of the passion many claimed was lacking during the Andy Roxburgh era. But, in truth, the visitors always looked more fluid and won with greater comfort than the scoreline suggests.
In less than three months the Dutch will be opening their World Cup campaign against Saudi Arabia in what is likely to be a Washington heatwave. Glasgow offered a characteristically rain-swept welcome, and an equally predictable period of tentative football as the sides wrestled with the coaches' tactical ploys.
Brown used Craig Levein as sweeper, with Alan McLaren deputed to man-mark Dennis Bergkamp and the wide defenders operating as wing-backs. Unfortunately, both David Robertson and, to a lesser extent, Stewart McKimmie, appeared to be concentrating on the first half of this role at the expense of checking the forays of Gaston Taument and Roy.
The Dutch carved the first clear opening in the eighth minute, when Andy Goram parried a goal-bound effort by Rob Witschge. The Rangers keeper repeated the feat 15 minutes later, blocking a Berkamp drive with a leg following Roy's corner, but the respite was short-lived.
Scotland cleared the ball only as far as Roy, by now lurking around the angle of the penalty area. From that unlikely spot the Italian-based winger curled a left-footed shot over the previously dominant Colin Hendry and beyond Goram into the top right corner of the net.
Graham Taylor's television catchphrase - 'Do I not like Orange' - seemed suddenly apposite, although the Scots should have equalised within four minutes. Pat Nevin sent Gary McAllister clear in a position from which the captain would surely have scored had he been playing for his club. Instead, he squared the ball for the arriving Nevin and Robertson, only to play it behind them.
Bergkamp did not appear for the second half - evidently part of Dick Advocaat's policy of keeping Inter sweet - as a flurry of substitutions served as a reminder of the fixture's non-competitive status. Friendly or not, several players had a point to prove, and Hendry in particular did his cause no harm.
The giant Blackburn defender, a latter-day Gordon McQueen with his loping stride and flapping mane, often caused The Netherlands problems with his aerial strength. Having seen a first-half header thud into a Dutch thigh, Hendry was thwarted again early in the second half when Ed De Goey saved his powerful effort from a Robertson centre.
Brown's tactical changes had largely subdued the Dutch wingers. Now Scotland needed to muster greater attacking threat, and the appearance of Eoin Jess with a little over 20 minutes remaining seemed rather too late.
The half-chances kept falling Hendry's way. After a McAllister corner had caused alarm in the Dutch area, he miskicked badly, and his profligacy was almost punished twice in rapid succession as The Netherlands sought to seal their 11th game without defeat with a second goal.
First, Roy's shot cannoned off Tom Boyd. From the ensuing corner, Frank De Boer's header was cleared off the line by John Collins.
SCOTLAND (1-4-3-2): Goram (Rangers); Levein (Hearts); McKimmie (Aberdeen), Hendry (Blackburn), McLaren (Hearts), Robertson (Rangers); McStay (Celtic), McCall (Rangers), McAllister (Leeds); Nevin (Tranmere), Durie (Rangers). Substitutes used: Boyd (Celtic) for Levein, h-t; McKinlay (Dundee United) for McStay, h-t; Collins (Celtic) for Robertson, 65; Jess (Aberdeen) for Nevin, 67.
NETHERLANDS (1-2-3-4): De Goey (Feyenoord); Blind (Ajax); Van Gobbel (Feyenoord), F De Boer (Ajax); Rijkaard (Ajax), Jonk (Internazionale), Witschge (Feyenoord); Taument (Feyenoord), Bosman (Anderlecht), Bergkamp (Internazionale), Roy (Foggia). Substitutes used: Winter (Lazio) for Bergkamp, h-t; Gillhaus (Vitesse) for Bosman, h-t; Overmars (Ajax) for Taument, 77.
Referee: K Nielsen (Denmark).
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