International Challenge Match
Mexico 1 - 0 Scotland
Sunday, 2 June 2018, kick off 1am (UK time)
Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico: G. dos Santos (13)
Alex McLeish’s young Scotland side restricted an experienced Mexican side to a one-goal victory in their final match of the summer tour to the Americas.
Aberdeen centre half Scott McKenna was handed the captain’s armband on the occasion of just his fourth cap, with Charlie Mulgrew rested.
The honour capped off a remarkable season for the 21 year old who a year ago was not even a regular in either the Aberdeen side or the Scotland Under-21 team.
Every one of Scotland’s outfield players were born in the 1990s and the entire team had only 29 caps between them, in comparison to the opposition whose starting eleven boasted more than 500 caps.
Goalkeeper, Jon McLaughlin, earned his first cap at the age of 30 following an impressive season for Hearts.
Tonight’s starting line-up. pic.twitter.com/vODr1hvpo9— Scotland (@ScottishFA) June 3, 2018
Despite their inexperience, Scotland did not look phased in the opening stages, despite the rapturous backing their hosts were receiving. The home fans were playing their part, indulging in a Mexican wave within the first minute and cries of “Ole!” when they enjoyed a spell of passing play.
Content to let their hosts enjoy the majority of possession, Scotland looked to break when given the opportunity and displayed a degree of comfort on the ball when they regained possession that belied their relative inexperience at this level.
Indeed, Scotland created the first clear cut chance on the 10th minute, when some determined wing play from Ryan Christie won him a yard of space on the left to deliver a cross.
Though the cross was cleared, Dylan McGeouch latched on to the loose ball before playing in Callum Paterson, whose first time left footed shot lacked the power to trouble Ochoa.
Scotland’s promising start was undone on 13 minutes. Vela initially picked up a clever position in the hole before releasing the winger down the right flank.
Scotland failed to deal with the low cross and when the ball finally ran through to Vela he laid it off to Giovanni dos Santos, whose low left footed shot rolled into the far corner past a despairing McLaughlin.
Following the goal Mexico enjoyed a lot of possession, with long raking passes to release their wide players clearly a favourite tactic. Scotland fullbacks O’Donnell and Shinnie were having to stay alert to deal with the danger.
Despite dominating possession with some neat interplay, Mexico were being restricted to long range drives, one of which came dangerously close to a second goal.
O’Donnell found himself up against two men on the right flank, who worked the ball back to the edge of the box. The first time shot from Layun curled towards goal, with Mclaughlin grateful to see it thunder off the top of the far post.
McLaughlin again breathed a sigh of relief on 33 minutes when a free kick from Vela on the edge of the box flew over the bar, after McGeouch was somewhat harshly adjudged to have impeded his man.
The Scotland keeper was called into action moments later, producing a diving save at full stretch to tip a drive from Lozano away from goal, Jack Hendry recovering to clear the danger.
Scotland ended the half on the attack, McGeouch winning possession in midfield before McLean released Russell down the right.
He played in the rampaging O’Donnell overlapping on the right, but rather than play a first time cross the Kilmarnock right back took a touch, allowing the defender to recover.
As the second half resumed Alex McLeish handed his 9th debut of the tour, replacing McLaughlin in goals with Scott Bain, ensuring that every uncapped player in the squad played a part over the two games.
Bain was called into action immediately, diving at full stretch to push away two long range drives in quick succession.
Scotland threatened at the other end on the 48th minute as Oli McBurnie was released down the inside channel. He made his way to the byline before cutting the ball back for the onrushing Paterson, only to be denied by the outstretched leg of the defender.
Scotland were finally beginning to show some poise in their attacking play and moments later almost found an equaliser.
A teasing left-footed delivery from Russell on the right found a soaring McBurnie, his header rattling the post before being hooked away to safety by the scrambling Mexican defence.
Scotland could count themselves lucky not to fall further behind on the 51st minute. A promising spell of Scottish possession outside the Mexican box was suddenly turtned into a rapid brewkaway which somehow left Graeme Shinnie alone at the back faced with three onrushing Mexican players.
The low cross found its target but a swiftly retreating Scotland defence somehow managed to recover and scramble the ball to safety, with the hearts of the 400 or so Scotland fans in the upper tiers of the famous stadium lodged in their throats.
Alex McLeish took the opportunity to ring the changes, with Mulgrew, Cadden and McGinn replacing Paterson, McLean and Christie. Scotland also switched to a three at the back system, with Mulgrew taking up position in between Hendry and McKenna.
Scotland had the woodwork to thank again for not falling further behind on the 75th minute a loose pass from McGeouch gifted possession deep inside Scotland’s half, Mexico working the ball to the impressive Lozano who was one on one with Mulgrew in the box.
Despite Mulgrew’s lunging tackle, Lozano managed to work a half yard of space to rattle a powerful strike past Bain, only to see it ricochet off the woodwork.
Mexico had the ball in the net on the 72nd minute only to see it chopped off for offside. A deep cross found a Mexican head, the fierce header only palmed away by Bain back into the danger zone.
The loose ball was hammered home by the onrushing Mexican attack, but the referee was quick to blow for offside – much to the disdain of the home crowd, whose whistles and jeers echoed around the gigantic stadium.
Scotland’s fifth change of the night saw Lewis Morgan earn his second cap, replacing Oli McBurnie on the 80th minute to inject some fresh legs into Scotland’s attack.
As the match petered out in the closing stages, a visibly tired Scotland could console themselves with having kept their opponents at bay for much of the match in extremely challenging conditions.
With this end-of season tour now concluded, Scotland will not play again until September, when they welcome Belgium to Hampden Park for an International Challenge Match. Competitive action then resumes, as Scotland turn their attention to the inaugural UEFA Nations League, with the visit of Albania to Hampden Park four days after the Belgium fixture.
Scotland: McLaughlin (Bain, 46), O'Donnell, Shinnie, McKenna (C), Hendry, McGeouch, Russell, McLean (Cadden, 53), McBurnie (Morgan, 80), Paterson (Mulgrew, 53), Christie (McGinn, 53)
Unused substitutes: Archer, Murphy.
Mexico: Ochoa, Gallardo, Layun, Ayala, Alvarez, Herrera (J. dos Santos, 55), Vela (Aquino, 60), Lozano (Corona, 73), Salcedo (Marquez, 46), Jimenez (Peralta, 55), G. dos Santos (Fabian, 55)
Unused substitutes: Corona, Talavera, Hernandez, Gutierrez.