| Alex McLeish's makeshift and inexperienced Scotland side were beaten but not disgraced in their 2-0 loss to World Cup-bound Peru at the frenzied Estadio Nacional in Lima last night. It was all going pretty well for Scotland until the 37th minute when Christian Cueva scored from the spot after defender Scott McKenna had handled when turning his back on a cross in the penalty area. Lokomotiv Moscow's Jefferson Farfan made it 2-0 from close range in the 47th minute with Millwall keeper Jordan Archer, one of four starting debutants, looking culpable again after his misjudgement had led to the earlier penalty. Peru are on the way to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years and in front of 40,000 exuberant home fans Ricardo Gareca's side, ranked 11th in the world, threatened to impose more damage.
However, the visitors steadied themselves and looked solid enough while ending the night with seven new faces having made their first appearances for the national team. It was always going to be difficult for McLeish to shape up a team capable of giving the South Americans a real test. After six call-offs to a squad which was already without a clutch of regulars, the former Scotland defender had nine uncapped players, including all three keepers, with Archer selected for the first time. Kilmarnock right-back Stephen O'Donnell and Hibs debutant duo, Lewis Stevenson and Dylan McGeouch, were included in a side captained by Blackburn Rovers captain Charlie Mulgrew who, in winning his 35th cap, was the most experienced player in the team. The Incas, on an unprecedented 12-game unbeaten run, were missing their captain Paolo Guerrero to a 14-month drug ban but had the influential Farfan leading the line.
Archer started the game strongly, diving low to his right within minutes to make a decent save from Cueva's 25-yard free-kick. However, Scotland played their way into the game, growing in confidence with each passing minute. Archer, though, was tested again in the 32nd minute, this time by a Farfan drive from outside the box. But when the Lokomotiv striker's curling shot at goal was blocked by the hand of McKenna, after the Scotland keeper, as he rushed out to the edge of the box, collided with Mulgrew, Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero pointed to the spot. Cueva fired his penalty low and hard into the corner of the net and suddenly the home side raised their game with Archer spilling a powerful drive from Andre Carrillo, but the score stayed the same at the end of the half.
However, two minutes after the restart Archer did not look too clever again as Farfan's 12-yard drive from a Edison Flores cut-back went under his body. Scotland then had to survive a spell of hectic pressure. In the 63rd minute Oliver McBurnie and Callum Paterson replaced Jamie Murphy and John McGinn before Celtic new boy Lewis Morgan replaced Matt Phillips to makes his debut and there was a tinkering of formation. Paterson almost found McBurnie with a good ball to the back post, a move that encouraged the few hundred Tartan Army inside the ground who saw Graeme Shinnie replace McGeouch in the 76th minute to make his debut. Peru also made a clutch of substitutions - while Chris Cadden made his debut as a replacement for Kenny McLean - and the game ended in a disjointed way. Now McLeish will have to prepare for Mexico at the Azteca stadium on 2 June and a task which will be equally difficult at altitude.
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
Admin Team (admin@scottishfitba net)
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