Scotland 2 Finland 1
The sweetie papers rustled only slightly at Pittodrie on Wednesday afternoon into early evening (5.30pm kick off) but there was a quiet appreciation of Scotland's Under-21's at the end of a match that still keeps the nation respectable in their qualifying group.
It was Billy Stark's first European Qualifying match as Under 21 coach and the visitors sat top of group 6 before start of play with 5 wins from 5 games (15pts) in a table that included the Danes (2nd-13pts), Scotland (3rd-7pts), Slovenia (4th-4pts) and Lithuania (bottom-1pt).
Finland seemed to be at Aberdeen searching for a point. They played well in the first 20 minutes but you always suspected they could find another gear if need be. Scotland, mirroring the big team, were their usual mix of solid defensive work and little punch up front but against the run of play they netted in 29 mins.
A free kick was played smartly to the side and Steven Naismith bulleted the ball home.
Five minutes from half time the visitors deservedly equalised when Kasper Hamalainen of TPS Turku (their manager was Mixu Paatalainen before his move to Hibs) tried his luck from a similar range to Naismith and pivoted to sweep the ball past Jamie MacDonald in goals. MacDonald is currently on loan to QOS from Hearts.
The second half had draw written all over it until 7 minutes from time when Kevin McDonald of Dundee again finished in fine style after good build-up work and for once his net-bulging shot produced more than whispered approval from the Granite City crowd.
Killie's Jamie Hamill is out of Scotland's next group game away to Lithuania in August after picking up a yellow card while Matrone of Finland was also booked.
Scotland just shaded it after turning up the heat on another cold North East night in the final 20 minutes. Billy Stark quite rightly said at the after match press conference that many nations around Europe at Under 21 level would be taking note of a victory for the Scots which was against a seriously good European side and not the Finland of old who used to rate with the bottom feeders of world football at all levels.
Scotland: MacDonald (Hearts on loan to QOS), Cuthbert (Celtic), Wallace (Hearts), Hamill (Kilmarnock), Kenneth (Dundee Utd), Reynolds (Motherwell), McCormack (Motherwell), McDonald (Dundee), Campbell (Hibs) (Dorrans (Livi) 55)
, Arfield(Falkirk) (Mulgrew (Wolves on loan to Southend Utd)
70), Naismith (Rangers)
Subs not used: Smith (St Mirren), McCann (Hibs), Considine (Aberdeen), Conroy (Celtic), McArthur (Hamilton Accies)
Finland: Maanoja, Jalasto, Raitala, Portin, Tuomo Turunen, Matrone, Hamalainen, Otaru, Sadik (Parikka 84), Karkkainen, Aijaja
Subs not used: Jakkola,Teemu Turunen, Jarno Parikka, Aho, Hakola, Puustinen, Viljanen
Referee: A.Vucemilovic-Simunovic (Croatia)
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