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Football: Scotland start Strachan era with Estonia win

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Gordon Strachan's reign as Scotland manager got off to a winning start with Charlie Mulgrew's first-half goal enough to seal a 1-0 victory against Estonia at Pittodrie on Wednesday.

Strachan, who was appointed in succession to the sacked Craig Levein last month, had previously not managed a win in any of his opening games as manager of Coventry, Southampton, Celtic or Middlesbrough.

But after early efforts from Chris Burke and Shaun Maloney it was Mulgrew, a player that Strachan sold when in charge of Celtic, who scored in the 39th minute when he clipped Charlie Adam's free-kick past Sergei Pareiko for his first Scotland goal.

Estonia had their chances too through Taijo Teniste and Tarmo Kink with the game goalless but Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor made two good saves.

Steven Naismith and Mulgrew both came close with efforts in a more subdued second half as Scotland warmed up for next month's World Cup qualifying double-header against Wales and Serbia with a morale-boosting win.

"I'm more relaxed now and I'm really happy," said Strachan. "It's been a terrific night for me and I must admit no matter what clubs I've been at, I think that's the most emotional and nervous I've been before a game."

The new Scotland manager was buoyed by his team's display on a heavy surface.

"They did a lot of things we wanted them to do but some of the things were nearly impossible because of the surface. Overall I think there was a lot to like and we made chances."

Strachan was given a warm welcome by the Scotland fans at Pittodrie, the ground where he made his name as a player with Aberdeen in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

And the Tartan Army were offered early encouragement when Mulgrew's corner was headed into the box by Naismith and Maloney fired in a decent shot on the turn that Pareiko turned round the post.

Burke, winning his first cap for nearly seven years, was then sent scampering into the box by a long ball over the top from Alan Hutton but the Birmingham winger cut inside before shooting and his effort was blocked.

Scotland had done all the early running but Estonia came close when Teniste cut in from the left-wing and let fly with a fierce striker that McGregor did well to tip over.

Burke was posing the Estonian defence all sorts of problems and, after twisting and turning in the box, he picked out Steven Fletcher with a cross from the by-line. But the Sunderland striker sent a header just over.

A cleverly worked set piece helped Scotland make the breakthrough in the 39th minute. Stoke midfielder Adam rolled a free-kick from the left for Mulgrew who ran on to it and slammed the ball past a host of players into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Burke and Maloney were replaced by Jordan Rhodes and Robert Snodgrass at the break and the latter was involved straight away when he raced on to a clever Naismith pass before a defender's touch took the sting out of his shot.

Everton forward Naismith found room for himself in the middle of the pitch and he strode forward before rifling a shot just over the bar from 20 yards out.

Mulgrew then forced Pareiko into a finger tip save with a vicious strike from long-range after substitute Kenny Miller had nodded the ball into his path.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/football-scotland-start-strachan-era-estonia-win-1