Scotland 0-1 Costa Rica: Marco Urena goal ensures losing start for Alex McLeish
By Ron Walker
Last Updated: 24/03/18 2:42am
Marco Urena's first-half goal gave Costa Rica a 1-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park, but there was plenty to impress Alex McLeish from his first game back at the helm.
Urena scored with the first shot of the game after 14 minutes, side-footing Bryan Ruiz's low delivery into the far corner and beyond Allan McGregor.
McLeish named four debutants in his starting line-up and one of them, Oliver McBurnie, came close to levelling before the break when he worked space under pressure and tested Kaylor Navas from the edge of the box.
The second half was firmly Scotland's, and they had further chances to level when McBurnie and Matt Ritchie both failed to connect on pinpoint Andy Robertson crosses, while the left-back himself wasted a glorious opportunity when he nodded wide late on from close-range.
Scotland: McGregor (6), Paterson (6), McKenna (7), Hanley (6), Mulgrew (6), Robertson (7), Cairney (6), McTominay (6), McDonald (5), Ritchie (6), McBurnie (7)
Subs: Armstrong (6), McGregor (7), McGinn (n/a), Murphy (n/a)
Costa Rica: Navas (7), Gamboa (5), Gonzalez (5), Acosta (6), Duarte (7), Oviedo (7), Colindres (6), Borges (7), Guzman (6), Ruiz (7), Urena (7).
Subs: Tejeda (6), Wallace (5), Smith (6)
Man of the match: Andrew Robertson
McLeish's second reign got off to a nervous start as Costa Rica bossed the early possession, and took the lead with the first shot of the game.
Ruiz found space behind Callum Paterson to pick out Urena in the middle, and he was left unmarked by three Scottish centre-backs to slot in the opener.
McLeish had opted to play a 5-4-1 in front of a sparsely populated Hampden crowd, who had little to get behind before the break, aside from one moment when McBurnie worked space well between two Costa Rica defenders and smacked a shot towards the far corner which Navas leapt to beat away.
After half-time things improved markedly, as Scotland got closer to their opposite numbers in midfield and won the ball back further up the pitch.
Alex McLeish threw in four debutants from the off, including Manchester United midfielder McTominay.
There were only four survivors for Costa Rica from their 1-0 defeat by Hungary last time out, with Real Madrid's Navas and Sunderland midfielder Oviedo among those brought in.
Getting Robertson into the game also helped - and had McBurnie been stronger at the near post from a brilliant low delivery he might have equalised, while Ritchie was also guilty of failing to get his feet organised from another excellent cross.
It was Ritchie who would provide Navas' sternest test from the edge of the area from a superb Callum McGregor through-ball, forcing the Real Madrid stopper to tip over the bar, but it was the visitors who held on for a victory which left Scotland feeling they deserved more.
- Scotland have lost back-to-back home games for the first time since September 2013. In fact, it's the first time they have lost two in a row at home without scoring a goal since November 2000 (three in a row).
- Having also beaten Scotland 1-0 in the 1990 World Cup in their first ever encounter, Costa Rica have become only the fifth side to ever beat Scotland in both of their first two meetings, after Czech Republic, USSR, Sweden and Uruguay.
- Scotland have conceded more goals in their last three international fixtures (four) than they had in their previous six combined (three) - they had kept three clean sheets in a row prior to this.
- Alex McLeish has now lost three consecutive matches as Scotland manager, having also lost to Georgia (2-0) and Italy (2-1) in 2007 in the final two games of his first spell in charge.
- Four of Costa Rica's last six international goals have been bagged by Marco Urena.
Alex McLeish: "The second half was better than the first. We were a bit laboured before half-time, we said to push up on them but we were kind of half-way there, not quite the full distance.
"We sat a little deep, the goal had three defenders in the middle of the box, but no-one who engaged with the striker. It was a good piece of play, but he punished us.
"We have to be more clinical, we had some chances second half but we will be quite different and have a look at some other players.
"It's not a competition, that's why we're experimenting, I'd love to have a great win ratio but sometimes you have to make some sacrifice and we've learned a lot tonight."
Man of the match - Andrew Robertson
A little questionable defensively at times, but rarely caught out generally, Robertson continued his excellent form for Liverpool on the international stage at left-back.
After a subdued first half, he was a constant threat for Scotland down the left in the second period and delivered four excellent low crosses, each of which was begging to be turned in for an equaliser which never came.
Came close to turning provider to scorer late on when his header from Paterson's cross landed the wrong side of the post.
Scotland travel to Hungary on Tuesday, before playing Peru and Mexico in quick succession at the end of the season in the build-up to the pair's World Cup campaign.