Walter Smith's first game as Scotland coach ended in disappointment for the travelling tartan Army in Milan tonight as Italy took command of Group Five. Scotland played with a degree of spirit especially in the second half in a rain-soaked San Siro Stadium. Italy deserved their win which was secured thanks to carbon-copy free-kicks from AC Milan's Andrea Pirlo, one in each half, against both of Scotland's keepers. It was disappointing to note that the game was marred by crowd violence in the second half when riot police had to be called in as fighting broke out amongst Italian supporters. Some members of the Tartan Army were caught up in the violence and had to be escorted to safety.
Much thinking for the three wise men
Scotland manager Walter Smith made eight changes from the team that flopped in the previous World Cup tie in Moldova and gave a debut to Hearts midfielder Paul Hartley. It was an understandably cautious formation with only Kenny Miller up front as Scotland spent the first half with their backs to the wall. The lack of pace at the heart of the Scotland defence meant they always looked vulnerable against the mobility of Antonio Cassano and Francesco Totti. Hartley found the going tough and was booked for a careless challenge after only 14 minutes as Scotland found themselves overrun in midfield.
Totti was first to test Robert Douglas with an ambitious 30-yard free-kick which the goalkeeper did well to hold. The Italian striker then shot straight at the goalkeeper from 18 yards after a cutback from Alberto Gilardino. As the first half wore on, the Italians became more and more dangerous with Scotland sitting back and inviting the home side to come at them. Douglas made a fine one-handed save from Cassano in the 26th minute after he had eluded the Scottish defence. Cassano had the ball in the net six minutes later but the Italian celebrations were cut short by the offside flag. The Italians finally made the breakthrough ten minutes from the break after David Weir gave away a needless free-kick at the edge of the area. Pirlo caught Douglas flat-footed with a superb curling effort which sailed into the net. Douglas' contribution was to last only another three minutes as he went off with a groin injury to be replaced by Craig Gordon. Totti should have scored a second for Italy in injury-time in the first half when Cassano laid the ball into his path but he volleyed over from ten yards.
Miller misses his chance to equalise
Scotland had a couple of great chances early in the second half. Nigel Quashie – with Scotland's first shot of the match – forced a great save from Gianluigi Buffon and then Miller shot straight at the goalkeeper - as he raced in one-on-one - when he should have scored. Scotland were much more adventurous in the second half but Italy wrapped it up five minutes from time when Pirlo curled in a 20-yard free-kick after Miller had committed a foul as he helped out his defence.
Italy: Buffon, Bonera, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Chiellini, Camoranesi, Pirlo, Gattuso, Totti, Gilardino, Cassano
Subs: Roma, Zaccardo, Grosso, Blasi, De Rossi, Esposito, Toni
Scotland: Douglas, McNamara, Pressley, Weir, Naysmith, Caldwell, Hartley, Ferguson, Quashie, McCulloch, Miller
Subs: Gordon, Anderson, O'Neil, McCann, Crawford, Webster, O'Connor
Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece)