Australia humble Brown's toothless Scots

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The Independent Football

Australia's band of journeymen from England's Nationwide League and the outback of European football last night emulated the achievement of the world champions, France, eight months earlier by scoring twice without reply in a Glasgow friendly.

Australia's band of journeymen from England's Nationwide League and the outback of European football last night emulated the achievement of the world champions, France, eight months earlier by scoring twice without reply in a Glasgow friendly.

Brett Emerton, who joined Feyenoord in preference to Manchester United and is one of the more high-profile Socceroos, set Australia on their way with an early goal. David Zdrilic, deputising for Mark Viduka, added the second after the break. It was symptomatic of Scotland's display that the crowd were never more excited than when a streaker braved the cold and rain to sprint across the pitch and when police confiscated an inflatable crocodile.

The turn-out of 31,000, while less than half the number who watched the nations slug it out at rugby union in Edinburgh last Saturday, was testament to the buoyant start Scotland have made to their World Cup campaign. Australia do not hit the qualifying trail until April yet they were the sharper, more cohesive unit throughout, prompting Craig Brown to admit: "That was arguably one of the poorest performances I can remember from the Scottish team."

Despite the fact that Viduka's ankle injury forced him to join Harry Kewell, Craig Moore and Mark Bosnich on a prestigious casualty list, Australia looked fresher, kept possession better and deserved their win. Kevin Muscat initiated the first goal after 12 minutes with a measured ball to Paul Okon, who was allowed time to glance up and spot Emerton's run through the inside-right channel.

As precise as the pass was, the powerful Emerton was aided by feeble challenges from Colin Cameron and Christian Dailly. His low shot passed beneath the right arm of the advancing Jonathan Gould, who was a late replacement for Neil Sullivan after the first-choice keeper hurt a thumb in training.

The Australians had not found the net in three previous tussles with Scotland, dating back to the play-off 15 years ago this month for a place in the Mexican World Cup.

Operating a 4-4-2 formation - like the one favoured by Belgium, Scotland's next competitive opponents - Australia almost doubled their advantage after 23 minutes. Stan Lazaridis's cunningly curled free-kick from 30 yards caught Gould too far off his line but smacked against the bar.

Gould saved smartly from Paul Agostino after Zdrilic had robbed the rusty-looking Dailly before Scotland belatedly threatened as half-time approached. No sooner had Don Hutchison's drive been diverted by Tony Popovic on to the roof of the net than than Cameron's corner fell to him in a crowded six-yard box. Mark Schwarzer threw himself between Hutchison and the goal, the ball again looping over.

The news that England were trailing to a goal by an ex-Ranger, allied to some stirring choices of music on the loudspeakers, combined to create the most rousing interval atmosphere since Scotland were at Wembley during Euro 96. The introduction of a winger, Neil McCann, was an acknowledgement by Brown that the home side needed to catch the mood.

There was a brief attacking flurry before Australia, with the former Serie A player Paul Okon pulling the strings, becalmed the crowd again. Cometh the hour, cometh the talisman: Colin Hendry was sent on with a third of the contest remaining, his 49th cap proving that reports of the end of his international career had been exaggerated.

Even allowing for the status of the match, Scotland's lack of fluidity and penetration must have disappointed their manager. Dominic Matteo had a steady debut on the left of midfield, but no more, and, as has often happened over the past 18 months, Hutchison looked the only likely scorer.

When a chipped pass by Barry Ferguson landed in his stride in the 62nd minute, the Sunderland player had the class and composure to hit it instantaneously on the half-volley. Schwarzer was hardly troubled, however, and within four minutes Scotland's frailties were exposed once more.

Muscat provided the ammunition, crossing from the right. Scotland's defenders ball-watched as Zdrilic ghosted in, unnoticed, to head beyond Gould from five yards.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Gould (Celtic); O'Neil (Derby), Dailly (Blackburn), Weir (Everton); Boyd (Celtic), Burley (Derby), Ferguson (Rangers), Cameron (Hearts), Matteo (Leeds); Dodds (Rangers), Hutchison (Sunderland). Substitutes used: Elliott (Leicester) for Weir, h-t; McCann (Rangers) for Cameron, h-t; Hendry (Coventry) for O'Neil, 58; Dickov (Manchester City) for Burley, 63.

AUSTRALIA (4-4-2): Schwarzer (Middlesbrough); Muscat (Wolves), Murphy (Sheffield United), Popovic (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Lazaridis (Birmingham); Emerton (Feyenoord), Okon (Middlesbrough), Skoko (Racing Genk), Tiatto (Manchester City); Zdrilic (Unterhaching), Agostino (TSV 1860 Munich). Substitutes used: Sterjovski (Lille) for Agostino, h-t; Burns (Leeds) for Tiatto, 66; Wehrman (Perth Glory) for Skoko, 75; Zane (Molde) for Zdrilic, 90.

Referee: P Garibian (France).

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