half of the park, Scotland's youngsters did what was necessary at
Tannadice yesterday to earn their first win in their European Under-21
Championship group. And, if the Maltese had an in-built aversion to
going into enemy territory, that should not detract from some worthwhile
performances from the home lads.
Scott Booth, for instance, became the highest scorer in Scottish
Under-21 history when he hit the opening goal, his sixth international
strike. He added a second near the end to complete a decent afternoon's
work. Duncan Ferguson, who scored the other goal, showed that all the
off-field arguments of recent weeks had not affected his exciting
The other Ferguson, Darren, had an impressive spell, too, but there
were no flaws in the home line-up and, indeed, some encouraging
They may have offered very little in attack -- in fact they offered
nothing at all in the first half -- but there was no soft centre in the
Maltese defence. They went about their business with a determination
that allowed some highly dubious interpetations of the fair tackle.
Jonathan Buhagiar, one of their enthusiastic front players, had a neat
line in late tackles, the first of which left Bain in some discomfort on
the far touchline.
The second unsavoury lunge by the Maltese player did no favours to
Deas and Norwegian referee Pedersen correctly, if belatedly, showed him
the yellow card. However, if justice had been served the card score
would have been levelled after Bain apparently sought some retribution
and hauled down Buhagiar in reckless fashion.
The referee seemed to work on the basis that a player was permitted
one fling before action was taken, and the Dundee lad was let off.
Meanwhile, deep in the heart of the Maltese defence, where all the
action was taking place, Duncan Ferguson and Darren Debono were having a
separate feud all of their own.
Whatever else the young man from Malta is, he is not lacking in
courage as Ferguson, who has learned to handle the rumbles of the
premier division, is no soft touch.
They might have been given a penalty when Spiteri held back Bernard,
but maybe you need two of those as well before Rune Pedersen takes
Before Booth stepped in to score his first goal, Duncan Ferguson had
been closest to giving the 4728 crowd, many of whom were schoolchildren,
a thrill when he hit an overhead kick from a Deas cross and was only
denied by a good parry by the keeper.
In 31 minutes Booth did the trick when he had plenty of time and space
to head in a corner taken by Darren Ferguson on the right.
Darren, son of Alex, might have had one to himself a few minutes later
when he hit a splendid right foot shot which the keeper, Mallia, did
well to touch over.
But within three minutes of the second half the other Fergie, Duncan,
had blasted a header past the keeper to put Scotland two up. The Scots
did look far more purposeful after the break and Malta, although
starting the second period with Muscat on for Grech, looked just about
ready to collapse.
Debono did precisely that shortly afterwards, but it seemed to be as a
result of close attention from Duncan Ferguson who was spoken to by the
referee but who looked in danger of serious assault if the anger vented
at him by some of Debono's colleagues was a guide. In 57 minutes a rare
event, Howie had to make a save of sorts, a clutch of a cross from
Galea, and five minutes later Scotland replaced Deas with Andy Dow.
Scotland then brought on Andy McLaren for Bernard, but the main
question remained how many more would the Maltese lose. They defied that
presumption until the last minute when a Telfer free-kick went all the
way across goal to Booth, who nodded it over Mallia and into the net.
SCOTLAND -- Howie (Clyde), Murray (Rangers), Deas (St Johnstone),
Wright (Aberdeen), Bain (Dundee), Bernard (Oldham), Telfer (Luton),
Johnston (Dundee United), Duncan Ferguson (Dundee United), Darren
Ferguson (Manchester United), Booth (Aberdeen). Substitutes -- Reid
(Hibernian), McAuley (St Johnstone), Dow (Dundee), Dailly, McLaren (both
MALTA -- Mallia, Debono, Said, Chetcuti, Mizzi, Grech, Agius, Spiteri,
Galea, Zammit, Buhagiar. Substitutes -- Sullivan, Camilleri, Marlow,
Referee -- R Pedersen (Norway).