Maradona off to winning start in Scotland

GLASGOW - Argentina took only eight minutes to score the goal that gave Diego Maradona a winning start as coach with a 1-0 victory over Scotland in a friendly on Wednesday. It was Maradona's second win at Hampden Park after helping Argentina beat the Scots 3-1 as an 18-year-old in June 1979 with his first international goal. Maradona took charge two weeks ago after Argentina lost their last match, a World Cup qualifier away to Chile 1-0 last month and coach Alfio Basile resigned. Maxi Rodriguez, scorer of a magnificent winner against Mexico at the 2006 World Cup, darted through from the right onto Carlos Tevez's pass to put a low shot under keeper Allan McGregor. Two minutes earlier, midfielder Javier Mascherano, captaining Argentina for the first time, had hit a dipping volley that McGregor dived to his right to push away. McGregor later saved from Ezequiel Lavezzi with his feet and his opposite number Juan Pablo Carrizo had to do the same from James McFadden's close-range effort after misreading Martin Demichelis's back pass near the end of the first half. Scotland gradually fought their way into the game which was evenly balanced for the rest of the first half with a few scares in the Argentine penalty area and much food for thought for Maradona over the work ahead in improving the team. A contrast of styles had Argentina's neat build-ups with low passes and neat pieces of skill countered by the quick breaks by the home side. Lavezzi shot over the bar and Carrizo dived at the feet of McFadden to save by the post early in the second half. Substitute David Clarkson almost gave Scotland an equaliser one minute from time when he ran through the defence on the right but he was thwarted by a last ditch tackle. When World Cup qualifying resumes in March, Argentina will be looking to improve their third place in the South American group, six points behind leaders Paraguay. Scotland have taken four points from their three matches so far in European Group Nine. They are second behind Netherlands, who have nine points.