Fletcher shines as Scotland display fight

Denmark 1 Scotland 0
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The Independent Football

The widely predicted deflowering of Scotland did not materialise in last night's Copenhagen friendly. Indeed, after conceding 10 goals to the Netherlands and Wales in their previous two away fixtures, to restrict a Euro 2004-bound Denmark team to Ebbe Sand's second-half goal had the feeling of a moral victory.

"Danish Dynamite" proclaimed the flags, but it certainly had a slow fuse on this occasion. The contest had just passed the hour mark when Sand, one of nine substitutes who appeared, headed in. Even with a Mackay and a Fletcher in their ranks, Scotland could not get out of jail, although to their credit they were still pressing in stoppage time.

The battling nature of Scotland's display against a nation listed 47 places higher in Fifa's world rankings will alleviate the pressure on their manager, Berti Vogts. They did not claim their first goal against Denmark in five meetings since 1975. Yet nor did it ever look likely that the Danish capital would see the end of Vogts' Scotland career as it did Billy Bremner's after a notorious nightclub escapade that year.

Vogts said: "There were a lot of positives out there. All my players showed heart and emotion - and that's what Scottish football needs." They also showed a modicum of style, no one more than Darren Fletcher, who looked as technically accomplished as any Dane. Malky Mackay, 32, became Scotland's oldest debutant in 37 years and could not be faulted for commitment, while Paul Gallacher had easily his best game in the Scottish goal.

Scotland started positively and had opportunities to score in the opening five minutes. James McFadden slipped away from Martin Laursen, leaving the Milan man on his backside, only for Rene Henriksen to block his goal-bound drive. Mackay, with his first touch in international football, then headed narrowly over from a corner by Fletcher, who has tended to be used on the right by Vogts but showed why Sir Alex Ferguson believes his future lies in the engine room.

Scotland's cause was not helped when Mackay's club-mate Gary Holt departed on a stretcher in the 13th minute after being accidentally caught on the knee by the former Celtic midfielder Morten Wieghorst.

Peter Canero came on for his first cap and had his work cut out helping the left-back, Stephen Crainey, who was being given a torrid time by Jesper Gronkjaer. For all Denmark's vaunted wing play, however, the biggest danger to Scotland's goal during the first half came from a ball threaded through the centre by Thomas Helveg.

Jon Dahl Tomasson had the seemingly simple task of beating Gallacher, but rolled his shot into the side netting. Scotland also benefited from a mistake by the referee, who let Steve Pressley's 43rd-minute trip on Martin Jorgensen go unpunished by a penalty.

Denmark at last produced something tangible from the flanks in the 61st minute. Daniel Jensen tore past Crainey before crossing, and Sand stole ahead of Mackay to glance the ball in. Immediately, Gronjkaer's shot was tipped on to the underside of the bar by Gallacher.

But Scotland's spirit was still not spent. Four minutes after the goal, Kevin Kyle found McFadden. Not for the first time, the Everton attacker's execution failed to match his skilful approach work, the shot trundling straight to a relieved Sorensen.

DENMARK (4-3-2-1): Sorensen (Aston Villa); Helveg (Internazionale), Laursen (Milan), Henriksen (Panathinaikos), N Jensen (Borussia Dortmund); D Jensen (Real Murcia), C Jensen (Charlton), Wieghorst (Brondby); Gronkjaer (Chelsea), Jorgensen (Udinese); Tomasson (Milan). Substitutes: Sand (Schalke 04) for Tomasson, h-t; Perez (AZ 67 Alkmaar) for C Jensen, h-t; Rommedahl (PSV Eindhoven) for Jorgensen, 66; Kroldrup (Udinese) for Henriksen,67; Retov (Brondby) for Weighorst, 81; Rasmussen (Hansa Rostock) for Gronkjaer, 84.

SCOTLAND (4-1-3-2): Gallacher (Dundee United); G Caldwell (Hibernian), Pressley (Hearts), Mackay (Norwich), Crainey (Southampton); Dailly (West Ham); Cameron (Wolves), Fletcher (Manchester United), Holt (Norwich); Kyle (Sunderland), McFadden (Everton). Substitutes: Canero (Leciester) for Holt, 16; McCann (Southampton) for Cameron, h-t; Sennels (Brondby) for N Jensen, h-t.

Referee: M Ingvarsson (Sweden).