Scotland 1 United States 1: Webster keeps Smith in the pink

Scotland come from behind as manager rebuilds towards Euro 2008
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Walter Smith continued his restoration work on Scotland's reputation as his players earned a respectable draw against the USA in this fiercely fought friendly international.

Once upon a time, that would have merited scorn from the Tartan Army. However, with the Americans aiming to improve upon their 2002 quarter-final spot at next year's World Cup, it was received with satisfaction.

Andy Webster's header cancelled out an early penalty from Josh Wolff and had Scott Brown not been denied a late goal on his debut by an offside flag, the reward could have been greater. Smith is building for the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign and with just two defeats in nine games since he took charge, the signs of progress are there.

The occasion marked the 60th cap for Christian Dailly, who, in the absence of the injured Barry Ferguson, assumed the captaincy. However, Dailly's celebrations were rudely cut short after just eight minutes when the West Ham United player conceded a penalty by pushing DaMarcus Beasley in the back as the PSV Eindhoven midfielder burst through on Craig Gordon. Wolff's smoothly struck kick sent the keeper the wrong way.

The Hampden Park audience should not have been surprised. A lot has changed since the Scots warmed up for the 1998 World Cup finals by drawing with the USA in Washington. Bruce Arena's side are now seventh best in the world, according to Fifa rankings, while the Scots are 62nd.

The first meeting between the countries, in 1952, saw 107,000 roll up to Hampden as Scotland won 6-0. About a quarter of that number were inside the national stadium as Smith's side sought to build on their 3-0 win over Slovenia last month.

It took a while for Scotland to gain a foothold in the contest. Gradually, the passing became more fluent but there was little cutting edge and the lone striker, Garry O'Connor, found himself frustrated by the energy of the well organised visitors.

However, parity was restored after 36 minutes when Webster scored his first goal for Scotland. The Hearts defender rose above everyone to meet a free-kick whipped in from the left touchline after Brian Carroll had brought down Neil McCann. Webster's header arced away from Kasey Keller into the corner of the net.

The spirit was lifted among Smith's players as they pressed the Americans ferociously and McCann's curling cross was glanced just over the bar by O'Connor at the near post.

The tempo in the second half did not drop, partly because of the raft of substitutes introduced by both managers. One of Scotland's, Gary Caldwell, created panic in the United States defence with a 53rd-minute free- kick into the box. It was met by Dailly's downward header, forcing Jonathan Spector to slice the ball away from danger.

Benjamin Olsen was equally keen to make an impact and the American substitute's breakaway ought to have been rewarded by a better finish than Beasley was able to muster.

The arrival of James McFadden for McCann just after the hour lifted the crowd. The Everton player, with eight goals in 23 games for Scotland, always carries the potential for entertainment and was soon involved.

Alas, McFadden overdid the trickery somewhat after Darren Fletcher set him up, but the introduction of Hibernian's teenage midfielder Scott Brown, making his debut, and young Celtic forward Shaun Maloney, injected some zest into the proceedings.

Comments