Scotland Under-21s 3

Malta Under-21s 0

ON THE BASIS that they can do no more than beat the team in the other

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

Dundee United).

MALTA -- Mallia, Debono, Said, Chetcuti, Mizzi, Grech, Agius, Spiteri,

Galea, Zammit, Buhagiar. Substitutes -- Sullivan, Camilleri, Marlow,

Muscat, Montanaro.

Referee -- R Pedersen (Norway).