Rough justice for Ferguson as Scots gain point

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The Independent Online
Austria 0 Scotland 0

The Scotland manager, Craig Brown, hailed a "more mature" Duncan Ferguson, even though the Everton striker collected a yellow card as Scotland kicked off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a goalless draw in Vienna on Saturday.

Ferguson's international return, after an absence of 20 months, was punctuated by a series of fouls awarded against him by the Belgian referee, Michel Piraux. He finally collected a 59th-minute booking for dissent, but Brown praised the attitude of his target man.

The Scotland manager described the result as "acceptable" as Scotland began their programme of 10 matches on the road to France in 1998. Asked about the referee's handling of Ferguson, Brown said: "We never make comment on a referee." Later, however, he said: "I have found that the attitude of Ferguson has been exemplary, both in training and in the match. By and large he accepted the decisions that were made and we have a more mature player now. We started to use him better in the second half and he did well." It was Ferguson's first international since playing against Greece in December 1994.

As for the 0-0 scoreline, Brown said: "From the Scottish perspective the result is acceptable. We hoped not to lose, but we didn't come here for a draw. We came to try and score. We must give credit to the Austrian defence. We had difficulty early on but after that we were in control. I didn't think they would score. When Austria come to Glasgow we hope we can do better in terms of scoring.

"With hindsight you always think about the chances you might have had to get full points. But it will be difficult for teams to get full points here."

Sweden moved to the top of Scotland's group with a 2-1 win in Latvia last night, thanks to first-half goals from Martin Dahlin and Kennet Andersson that gave them a 2-0 interval lead. Brown was in Riga to watch the match, after flying in from Vienna.

Sweden have made a flying start with six points from two games, adding last night's victory to a 5-1 home win over Belarus. Scotland are five points adrift with a game in hand and must go to Latvia on 5 October before facing Estonia in Talinn four days later - when they will also be hoping Sweden will drop something when they entertain Austria on the same night.

AUSTRIA: Konsel (Rapid Vienna), Schopp (Hamburg), Schottel (Rapid Vienna), Pfeffer (Austria Vienna), Feiersinger (Borussia Dortmund), Marasek (Freiburg), Ramusch (Casino Graz), Kuhbauer (Rapid Vienna), Polster (FC Cologne), Herzog (Werder Bremen), Heraf (Rapid Vienna). Substitutes: Sabitzer (Casino Graz) for Polster, 68; Ogris (Austria Vienna) for Ramusch, 76.

SCOTLAND: Goram (Rangers), Burley (Chelsea), Boyd (Celtic), Calderwood (Tottenham), Hendry (Blackburn), McKinlay (Blackburn), Ferguson (Everton), McCall (Rangers), McCoist (Rangers), McAllister (Coventry), Collins (Monaco). Substitute: Durie (Rangers) for McCoist, 75.

Booked: Scotland: McAllister, Ferguson.

Referee: M Piraux (Belgium).

Attendance: 29,500.