|Garry O'Connor made a successful return to the Scotland team when he secured the win with the only goal of the game in Vienna against Austria. The Lokomotiv Moscow striker marked the end of his exile from international football in the best way possible for a striker at the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium. The win is a morale booster before next Wednesday's European Championships qualifier against the Faroe Islands in Toftir. As well as acting as a warm-up match for that game, the friendly provided manager Alex McLeish with the opportunity to experiment with his squad. O'Connor was last week welcomed back into the international fold after going AWOL ahead of a EURO2008 qualifier against the Ukraine just days after a triumphant victory over France back in October during Walter Smith's reign. Since then he had been omitted from McLeish's first squad for the double header against Georgia and Italy - but the forward was thrown into the starting line-up for the Austria game. As expected, Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor was also in the first XI, earning his first Scotland cap between the sticks. |
The home side attempted to push forward straight away in a bid to stamp their authority on the friendly and the crowd optimistically screamed for a penalty in the opening seconds when Christian Fuchs went to ground under pressure from Gary Caldwell. But there appeared to be little in the challenge and Hungarian referee Zsolt Szabo signalled for play to continue. Scotland then enjoyed a period of possession and Gary Naysmith tried to release Lee McCulloch into the box - but the move was snuffed out by Joachim Standfest. Kris Boyd dummied a cross from the right to allow McCulloch a shot at goal but the Wigan man misread the situation and the ball flashed harmlessly across the face of goal and wide. At the other end, Christoph Leitgeb surged into the box but the danger was cleared by Darren Fletcher before he could pull the trigger. McGregor was then called into action to block Leitgeb's resultant corner at the near post. Scotland had a decent chance to take the lead when Naysmith set up Boyd for the shot only to send his overhead kick just wide from the six-yard box. Within seconds, the Rangers striker had the chance to make amends with a more direct effort from the edge of the box but goalkeeper Helge Payer managed to smother. McGregor was called into action when Naysmith allowed Mario Haas a shot at goal but the keeper did well to block. As with most friendlies, the tempo of the game soon dipped and chances were few and far between from both sides. However, Scotland could have snatched the lead shortly before the break when Boyd's effort flashed across the face of goal and O'Connor failed to capitalise after Joachim Standfest cleared the ball to him in front of goal.
Scotland made three changes during the break; McGregor handed over the gloves to Craig Gordon, while McCulloch and David Weir were replaced by Paul Hartley and Christian Dailly respectively. Austria had the best of the possession after the break forcing a couple of corners, but staunch defending from the Scots meant Gordon had little to do early on other than smother a long range shot from Haas. The home side continued to push forward and Andreas Ivanschitz saw his 40-yarder whistle across the face of goal and wide. However, it was Scotland who took the lead with 59 minutes gone when O'Connor pounced on a Boyd flick, before teeing up the shot and slotting under the body of Payer from eight yards. Two more Rangers players were handed their Scotland debuts for the last 20 minutes when Charlie Adam and Alan Hutton replaced Shaun Maloney and Graham Alexander. Austria piled forward in search of the equaliser and the Scots found themselves under pressure when they conceded a free-kick 25 yards out. Leitgeb's effort was hooked over the crossbar by Caldwell, before Markus Katzer rattled the woodwork - but Scotland held on for the win.
Austria: Payer, Standfest, Hiden, Patocka (Prodl 89), Fuchs (Katzer 74), Ivanschitz, Aufhauser (Sariyar 74), Saumel, Leitgeb, Linz, Haas (Kuljic 60)
Subs Not Used: Macho, Manninger, Ibertsberger, Atan, Hoffer, Sulimani, Stranzl, Salmutter
Scotland: McGregor (Gordon 47), Alexander (Hutton 71), Weir (Hartley 47), Caldwell, Naysmith, Maloney (Adam 67), Fletcher, Ferguson, McCulloch (Dailly 47), O'Connor (McManus 87), Boyd
Subs Not Used: Turner
Goals: O'Connor 59
Ref: Zsolt Szabo (Hungary)