Match report: Second-best Scots crack Norse code

Scotland captain Scott Brown fires the winner (Getty Images). Gordon Greer, below. Alan Hutton takes on Morten Gamst Pedersen.
Scotland captain Scott Brown fires the winner (Getty Images). Gordon Greer, below. Alan Hutton takes on Morten Gamst Pedersen.
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Scotland manager Gordon Strachan admitted his side were second best despite beating Norway in Molde last night.

The Dark Blues were outplayed for much of the friendly encounter at the Aker Stadion but came up with another confidence-boosting victory when skipper Scott Brown struck the game’s only goal after 61 minutes.

But Strachan admitted his team had failed to match the standards of the hosts. He said: “I thought Norway were the better team. They played a lot more combination passes than we did.

“They were old fashioned in the first 20 minutes in that they made us turn with their two strikers and chased us into corners. That kind of spooked us a wee bit and looking back, we should be able to do that ourselves. We will learn from that.

“We wanted to play but because Norway were so good at making us go back the way, we couldn’t get going. Our work rate was great but it was desperation, because we had to work that hard.”

Celtic midfielder Brown’s night was not without controversy as he appeared to kick out at former Southampton defender Vegard Forren midway through the first half in an incident reminiscent of the one involving Barcelona superstar Neymar, which cost him a three-match Champions League ban.

Alan Hutton takes on Morten Gamst Pedersen

Alan Hutton takes on Morten Gamst Pedersen

But that flashpoint was soon overtaken by his match-winning strike.

Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall pulled off a string of saves to keep the scores level – stopping brilliantly from Barnsley striker Marcus Pedersen ten minutes after the break – before Brown lashed home a low drive that beat home stopper Orjan Nyland to the bottom corner.

However, Strachan admitted that it was not a display he enjoyed. He said: “I wouldn’t like to see David having to do so much in future. He’s had to make a couple of great saves.

“David was terrific. [Our clean sheet] was a combination of good defending and good goalkeeping as well as some unfortunate finishing on the Norwegian side. But the lads seem happy within each other to dig out a result when it wasn’t going for them.

“From my point of view, I didn’t really enjoy it as a spectacle.”

Strachan made five changes to his side but did not hand Kris Boyd an international return after three years out as the Kilmarnock striker sat out the match on the bench.

The former Celtic boss lined his side up in a 4-3-3 formation but switched them back to a midfield four after just 25 minutes as the Norwegians overran the visitors in the middle of the park.

The manager admitted his original ploy did not work this time but he may return to it in the future.

“We will try again because I do believe it can work,” said Strachan. However, the system we fall back on seems to be more reliable.

“Any system, if you can’t pass the ball, you will struggle. But the reason we didn’t pass the ball was because we got isolated from each other.

“If you want it to work, you need to have three or four lads together. But it was maximum two together and we’ve never done that before. It was very strange but we will learn from that.”

Following World Cup qualifying victories over Macedonia and Croatia, and Friday’s 0-0 draw with the USA, last night’s win means that Scotland have now gone their last four matches unbeaten, with defender Gordon Greer playing down Brown’s latest controversial off-the-ball incident.

It comes as the Celtic midfielder prepares to serve the final game of this three-match Champions League ban for a similar act of aggression targeted at Barcelona star Neymar.

However, Greer instead preferred to focus on the skipper’s match-winning performance.

He said: “It was just one of those things. I don’t think there was anything in it. Browny gives his all in every game and that is what makes him such a special player.

“I’m surprised he didn’t celebrate his goal more because it was a fantastic strike.

“I’m really pleased for him because ever since I’ve been involved with the squad he has been outstanding.

“He is crucial for this team and especially for me as a defender because he is always giving you options. I think he’s a fantastic player.”

Greer also hailed the displays of goalkeeper Marshall, although he remains unsure if the Cardiff man can usurp the injured Allan McGregor as Scotland’s regular No. 1.

He said: “When you make your debut it is up to you to do as well as you can because there are others who want the jersey but I feel I have done well.

“It was great to get another clean sheet tonight. David has pulled off a couple of great saves.

“He is playing so well right now but ultimately it is down to the manager if he can take that place as permanent number one.”

Norway: Nyland, Hogli, Reginiussen (Strandberg 65), Elabdellaoui (Linnes 60), Forren, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Eikrem (Konradssen 80), Skjelbred (Daehli 67), Jenssen, Marcus Pedersen (Elyounoussi 86), Kamara (Abdellaoue 46). Subs not used: Jarstein, Skjelvik, Grytebust.

Scotland: Marshall, Hutton, Martin, Greer, Whittaker, Anya (Conway 51), Adam (McArthur 64), Brown, Bryson (Bannan 46), Snodgrass, Naismith (Berra 90). Subs not used: Fox, Boyd, Wallace, Mackay-Steven, Armstrong.