SCOTLAND 0 SOUTH AFRICA 2
The prospect of watching Scotland struggle against World Cup qualifiers South Africa did not exactly set the pulses racing in Hong Kong. The weather threatened first game of the Reunification Cup kicked off in front of a sparce crowd which in view of Scotland's recent performances was not the shock of the century. Despite Scotland dominated large chunks of the play, South Africa deserved their 2-0 win with goals late in each half but looked anything but convincing. In fact, they looked every bit the World Cup outsider. Berti Vogts must be thinking he must have done something pretty bad in a previous life to suffer the humilliations since taking over from Craig Brown.
Just what went wrong with the plan this time?
Perhaps we are just not good enough. Perhaps Craig Brown's skill in turning out better results with the limited resources do not look so bad now. More likely, perhaps Vogts is having to pick up the mess that Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown have left him in not picking any youngsters and instead picking the old pals. VDH's message - we need to start somewhere, at least Bertie is giving it a damn good go.
Vogts abandoned his 4-4-2 formation in favour of three central defenders (we've been here before!), supported by wing-backs, after the bruising defeat in South Korea and the more defensive system reduced South Africa to taking pot shots from long range.
Scotland's forward forays were however restricted but more threatening, with Sunderland kid Kevin Kyle being handed his first start up front alongside last week's debutant goalscorer, Scott Dobie.
The first chance fell to Dobie as Maurice Ross crossed from the byline, Gareth Williams turned the ball into the six-yard box and Dobie nipped in ahead of Hans Vonk only for his flick past the goalkeeper to curl the wrong side of the post.
The seemingly inevitable South African goal came on 31 minutes, when Mokoena was tripped by David Weir on the edge of the box. Benni McCarthy's powerful and low free-kick was blocked by Robert Douglas, but the big keeper could not hold the ball and St Gallen midfielder Mokoena was the quickest to react and drive it low into the far corner.
That's number one coming up
It was far from deserved, but the old saying of taking your chances proved (again) correct.
Vonk and his defence looked particularly vulnerable in the air and Dobie and Kyle ought to have gained a vital goal before the break. The West Brom striker Dobie headed over after rising highest to a dangerous Gemmill corner. Kyle then missed a more gilt-edged chance when his effort went just over after Vonk had misjudged a Williams free kick.
Lee Wilkie won his first cap when he replaced Gary Caldwell at half-time and the Dundee defender went on to produce an assured performance. Given his plaudits, it was surprising to see him loaned out by Ivano Bonetti (despite any fall-outs) bit nice to see the defender play well.
Scotland again came close to equalising four minutes into the second period as Dobie sent Kyle clear, but his flick over the advancing goalkeeper struck the face of the crossbar. It seemed at this point that Scotland were detined not to score.
Oh so close!
South Africa were again reduced to long-range efforts, while Maurice Ross came close to catching Vonk off his line with a spectacular long-range chip at the other end.
However the game was finished as a contest in injury time as Basle forward Koumantarakis settled the match with a low drive as the Scots were caught out pressing forward for the equaliser.
It was a sad end to an otherwise inspiring Scotland performance - inspiring as it was largely the kids out there again and they certainly did not let us down. If Scotland can take 2 or 3 of these kids forward and make them regulars then maybe the trip has not been as disasterous as some make out.
South Africa: Vonk, Aaron Mokoena, Radebe, Issa, Carnell, Zuma, Sibaya, Fortune, Pule, McCarthy, Tebeho Mokoena. Subs: Arendse, Marlin, Nzama, Mngomeni, Mukansi, Mnguni, Nomvete, Buckley, Pienaar, Molefe, Koumantarakis.
Scotland: Douglas, Stockdale, Caldwell, Dailly, Weir, Ross, Gemmill, Williams, Dobie, Kyle, Johnston. Subs: Gallacher, Neil Alexander, Graham Alexander, Stewart, O'Connor, Wilkie, McFadden, Cummings, Thompson, Severin.
Referee: Chan Siu Kee (Hong Kong)