Scotland 3 Australia 1: Aussies ruled as Rhodes scores on full debut for Levein
11:33 GMT, 16 August 2012
With a deft flick of the head, Jordan Rhodes announced his arrival as a full Scotland international. On this evidence, he will take some shifting.
Before a highly satisfactory final warm-up exercise at Easter Road, Craig Levein played down the coveted forward’s chances of starting against Serbia and Macedonia when the opening World Cup qualifiers start next month. The prospect, said the manager, was ‘unlikely’.
Capping a lively 65 minutes with a superb equalising header and a man-of-the-match award, Rhodes made a compelling case here for a swift revision of the pecking order.
Level terms: Rhodes wheels away after scoring the equaliser for Scotland
Scotland: McGregor (Gilks 22), Webster, Caldwell (Black 87), Berra, Hutton (Martin 67), Snodgrass, Adam, Morrison (Maloney 27), Fox (Mulgrew 69), Naismith, Rhodes (McCormack 67). Subs not used: Goodwillie, Phillips, Cowie, Bannan, Marshall.
Scorers: Rhodes 28, Davidson 62, McCormack 76
Australia: Schwarzer (Federici 46), Williams, Ognenovski (McGowan 79), Neill, Carney (Davidson 60), Kruse, Valeri, Bresciano (Jedinak 46), Wilkshire, Holman (McDonald 46), Brosque (Thompson 84). Subs not used: Langerak, Kilkenny.
Scorer: Bresciano 18.
Referee: Tom Harald Hagen (Norway).
As indeed did Danny Fox, the
Southampton left-back brought back to the fold following a three-year
international hiatus. An unconvincing defender at Celtic, Fox survived a
red-card scare to prove himself much improved.
On a night of slick passing and
incisive attacking, the left-back provided a terrific cross for the
headed goal which marked the graduation of one of English football’s
hottest scoring prospects from the ranks of the Under 21s.
His calm possession and crossing also
forced hapless Australian debutant Jason Davidson to head the ball past
his own keeper for the Scots’ second in 61 minutes to the delight of
the modest 11,110 crowd. As a result, Fox now has every chance of
starting against Serbia.
Less certain is the inclusion of Rhodes, a player listed below Kenny Miller and Jamie Mackie on Levein’s list of strike choices.
Or for that matter his replacement
Ross McCormack, who completed an excellent night by striking a low,
right-footed shot past Aussie substitute keeper Adam Federici in 74
minutes at the end of a fine solo effort.
In a convincing second-half display
there were countless positives for Levein to purr over. All from a less
than perfect starting base.
The Scots fell behind to a stunning 25-yard volley from Mark Bresciano in 17 minutes.
They should already have been a goal
down when Fox — who might have been red-carded by a bewildered Norwegian
referee — blatantly handled a Brett Holman eight-yard shot following a
cutback by Robbie Kruse.
Aussie rules: Bresciano celebrates his opener and is mobbed (below)
Christophe Berra scrambled the ball
clear for a corner as Australia — rightly — appealed for a penalty.
Replays even showed the ball was over the line when it came off the hand
Either way, Berra’s defensive header
from the resultant Luke Wiltshire corner brought some justice when
Bresciano thumped an unstoppable first-time shot inside McGregor’s
Picking the ball out of the net would
be the last act for the Besiktas keeper before he limped off to be
replaced by Matt Gilks. James Morrison also left the field injured
before the inevitable raft of second-half substitutions began.
Rhodes left the pitch in 65 minutes,
but could be satisfied. He had the first chance in just four minutes
when Morrison scurried down the right flank and cut the ball back into
the danger area.
The ball stuck under his feet then,
but it might have been the only time he was caught cold. There were
other chances before half-time when his lively running allowed Charlie
Adam to roll the ball into the penalty box and Schwarzer smothered.
Another header also sailed wide of the goal.
Either way, Rhodes had achieved more
in half an hour as a full international than Australian substitute
Scott McDonald had managed in 25 appearances for his country.
The former Celtic player appeared
after the break for his 26th showing, but it was Wilkshire — the Dynamo
Moscow midfielder — who offered Gilks the opportunity to impress.
You beauty: The Scotland fans go wild after Rhodes scored his equaliser
Alan Hutton was beaten a mite too
easily by Kruse on the left flank and, with time to pick out a
cut-back, the Fortuna Dusseldorf player found Wilkshire.
His sweeping left-foot shot was bound
for the top left-hand corner until Gilks — a man with an honours
degree in international patience — showed why he keeps coming back for
As with the opening Australian goal, that was a misleading reflection of the run of play.
With Gary Caldwell sitting between
defence and midfield, Adam, Steven Naismith and Robert Snodgrass joined
sub Shaun Maloney in driving at the Aussies time and again.
The decisive attacking move came once
again from Fox, however. Resisting the urge to cross first time, Fox
chose his moment, putting young Jason Davidson under pressure.
The son of a Socceroos legend, the defender somehow contrived to place a quite unstoppable header past his own keeper.
World Cup watch: The Aussies have already begun the qualification process for Brazil 2014
Inconsolable in the seconds afterwards, it was a cracks-of-the-fingers moment.
No one could say, however, that the
Scots were not worthy of their lead. Or, indeed, that they did not
deserve to add to it following a mere eight minutes on the pitch for
Leeds United’s McCormack.
The former Rangers and Motherwell
player had impressed Scotland’s manager with his attitude and
dedication in training this week. In the aftermath of an impressive
nutmeg and finish, we will be seeing more of the pint-sized attacker.
After dominating the headlines for
days, there was a mere six-minute cameo for Ian Black of Rangers. To the
shame of the Easter Road crowd, the former Hearts player was roundly
booed by his own supporters. As indeed was Australia’s Tynecastle
substitute Ryan McGowan.
It was the only black mark of a decent night for the Scots.
One which erases the bitter aftertaste
of the 5-1 end-of-season thrashing in the USA. The main course arrives
on September 8 with the visit of Serbia. This was a promising starter.