Maradona's reign starts with win over Scotland

Diego Maradona's first match as head coach of Argentina ended with a 1-0 friendly win over Scotland at Hampden Park on Wednesday.

updated: November 20, 2008 16:10 IST
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Diego Maradona's first match as head coach of Argentina ended with a 1-0 friendly win over Scotland at Hampden Park on Wednesday.

Maradona, who as one of football's greatest players inspired Argentina to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, had demanded a fighting performance from the South Americans before this game.

But Maxi Rodriguez's eighth-minute goal was all that separated the sides at full-time after Argentina, who made a lively start, faded after the interval.

Maradona, who back in 1979 scored his first international goal at Hampden as a 17-year-old, told reporters: "I thought in the first 25 minutes we were brilliant. We played some excellent football and scored the goal.

"Unfortunately we weren't able to convert any of the other chances we made but we kept the ball pretty much throughout the whole of the game.

"On occasions we gave the ball away too easily but even when we did that Scotland didn't capitalise on their chances and it was a deserved victory."

Scotland manager George Burley, a player in the losing side when Maradona's goal helped Argentina to a 3-1 win at Hampden 29 years ago, said: "It was a great workout for us. They gave us lots of problems in the first-half.

"But after that we got to grips with the game and I think the players held their own and came out with credit."

Scotland recorded a famous friendly win over then world champions Argentina at Hampden in 1990 but they never looked like they were going to repeat the feat despite a better second-half performance.

Maradona, revered in Scotland for his two goals - including the infamous hand of God' effort that helped eliminate England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup - had walked out to a hero's reception.

The diminutive legend, back at the ground where he scored his first international goal as a teenager in 1979, was greeted by banners proclaiming 'Diego Armando Maradona, amigo, hero' and others announcing converts to the 'Church of Maradona'.

The Argentine players looked out to impress their new boss from the start and only 90 seconds had passed before their first chance with Martin Demichelis rising highest to a Rodriguez corner but his header went high over the bar.

Newly-appointed captain Javier Mascherano, who plays for Liverpool, then saw a fierce volley well palmed-away by goalkeeper Allan McGregor. Argentina took the lead through Rodriguez after an excellent passing move.

Manchester United's Carlos Tevez cut in from the right and found Jonas Gutierrez, who provided the pass for the Athletico Madrid striker to slickly slip the ball under McGregor.

Maradona, who barely celebrated the goal, made his first appearance pitch-side in the 18th minute to shout instructions to his players.

And it seemed to work as a minute later Tevez played a perfect pass to Ezequiel Lavezzi who outpaced Alan Hutton to drive a powerful shot which was saved by the feet of McGregor.

Scotland's first chance came in the 22nd minute when a Kris Commons cross from the left found James McFadden in the box but his shot on the turn was deflected out for a corner.

Tevez then had a good chance when Inter Milan's Javier Zanetti cut the ball across from the right wing but he blasted over.

Bayern Munich defender Demichelis was robbed of the ball in his own box by McFadden in the 42nd minute but the Scot's weak effort was easily saved by keeper Juan Pablo Carrizo.

The half ended on a nasty note when Celtic's Gary Caldwell was booked for a tackle from behind on Tevez, which incensed Maradona.

Scotland brought on Lee Miller for Chris Iwelumo at the break and the big striker was soon knocking down a Commons free-kick which Carrizo almost spilled at McFadden's feet in the 55th minute. But that was as close as Scotland got to an equaliser.