Diego Maradona’s first match as head coach of Argentina ended with a 1-0 friendly win over Scotland at Hampden Park on Wednesday.
Maradona, who as one of football’s greatest players inspired Argentina to victory at the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ had demanded a fighting performance from the South Americans before this game. But Maxi Rodriguez’s eighth minute goal was all that separated the sides at full-time after Argentina, who made a lively start, faded after the interval.
Scotland recorded a famous friendly win over then world champions Argentina at Hampden in 1990, but they never looked like they were going to repeat the feat despite a better second-half performance.
Maradona, revered in Scotland for his two goals, including the infamous ‘Hand of God’ effort that helped eliminate England in the quarter-finals of Mexico 1986, had walked out to a hero’s reception. The diminutive legend, back at the ground where he scored his first international goal as a teenager in 1979, was greeted by banners proclaiming ‘Diego Armando Maradona, amigo, hero’ and others announcing converts to the ‘Church of Maradona.’
The Argentine players looked out to impress their new boss from the start and only 90 seconds had passed before their first chance with Martin Demichelis rising highest to a Rodriguez corner but his header went high over the bar. Newly-appointed captain Javier Mascherano, who plays in England for Liverpool, was next to try his luck and goalkeeper Allan McGregor did well to palm away his fierce volley.
Argentina took the lead through Rodriguez after an excellent passing move in the eighth minute. Manchester United’s Carlos Tevez cut in from the right and neatly found Jonas Gutierrez, who provided the pass for the Athletico Madrid striker to slickly slip the ball under McGregor.
Maradona, who barely celebrated the goal, made his first appearance pitch-side in the 18th minute to shout instructions to his players. And it seemed to work as a minute later Tevez played a perfect pass to Ezequiel Lavezzi who outpaced Alan Hutton to drive a powerful shot which was saved by the feet of McGregor.