Nelsen leveller shows up leaden Scotland's lack of imagination

Scotland 1 New Zealand 1
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The Independent Football

If there was a contented German in Edinbugh last night, it was surely Rudi Völler's spy in the stand rather than Berti Vogts. Eleven days before they take on their manager's countrymen in a vital Euro 2004 qualifier, Scotland toiled to a draw with the back-pack footballers of New Zealand in a feisty friendly marked by five bookings.

Even the fillip of an early goal, Stevie Crawford's fourth at international level, could not trick Scotland into a fourth win in 14 outings under Vogts. Ryan Nelsen, who plies his trade in Washington DC, deservedly levelled after the break, and Mick Waitt, the former Notts County striker who coaches New Zealand, underlined the patchwork nature of his squad by sending on a Ryman League player, Scott Smith, during a second half in which both teams had chances to win.

At least one place in Vogts' side for 7 June was up for grabs after the announcement that Barry Ferguson would be absent due to a long-delayed pelvic operation. A possible understudy, Jackie McNamara, was soon involved, clearing Gerard Davis's header off the line after Simon Elliott's second-minute corner.

New Zealand are 13 rungs above the Scots at 51st in Fifa's world rankings. Yet they fell behind to an embarrassingly soft goal after only 11 minutes. Maurice Ross, surging down the right flank, won a corner and, when James McFadden swung the kick in, Crawford scored with a free header from virtually on the goal-line.

The crowd was sufficiently sparse for the players' calls to be heard. A particularly raucous exchange involved Steven Pressley screaming at Ross to "[expletive deleted] stay in your position". In fact, Ross' overlapping was a frequent threat, the Rangers player linking well with both Paul Devlin and, when he switched wings, with McFadden.

In an open first half, New Zealand also had their moments, lacking only a finishing touch. Davis was especially culpable three minutes before the break, blazing wildly over after robbing Ross.

The second half was barely 70 seconds old when Scotland conceded a sloppy equaliser. Andy Webster began the train of events with a challenge on Vaughan Coveny that would have been more appropriate at Murrayfield. When Aaran Lines floated in the free-kick, the defence were static as Nelsen arrived to sweep the ball in from close range.

Matters almost took a further turn for the worse for Scotland in the 56th minute. Pressley, dwelling on the ball, was dispossessed by Lines, who advanced into the 18-yard area, drawing a fine save from Rab Douglas.

Foremost among Scotland's problems was the lack of invention in midfield. McNamara and Christian Dailly, for all their endeavour, looked what they were; defenders doing a shift in a role alien to their capabilities. Vogts, though, would have taken heart from the lively contributions from McFadden and Devlin.

SCOTLAND (4-4-2): Douglas (Celtic); Ross (Rangers), Pressley, Webster (both Hearts), Naysmith (Everton); Devlin (Birmingham City), Dailly (West Ham), McNamara (Celtic), McFadden (Motherwell); Crawford (Dunfermline Athletic), Kyle (Sunderland). Substitutes: Alexander (Preston NE) for Ross, h-t; Gray (Bradford City) for Kyle, 60; Kerr (Newcastle Utd, Eng) for McNamara, 83.

NEW ZEALAND (4-4-2): Utting (Auckland Kingz); Mulligan (Barnsley), Zoricich (Newcastle Utd, Aus), Nelsen (DC United), Davis (Tampere Utd, Fin); Jackson (Auckland Kingz), Lines (Ruch Chorzow, Pol), Elliott (LA Galaxy), Burton (Auckland Kingz); Coveny (South Melbourne), Hickey (both Tampere Utd). Substitutes: Batty (Caversham, NZ) for Utting, h-t; Oughton (Columbus Crew) for Mulligan, h-t; De Gregorio (Auckland Kingz) for Jackson, 54; Smith (Kingstonian) for Zoricich, 70; Bouckenooghe (KSK Ronse, Bel) for Lines, 80.

Referee: M Ingvarsson (Sweden).

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