Scotland manager Alex McLeish felt his inexperienced side could take plenty of positives from its 2-0 defeat to World Cup-bound Peru at the Estadio Nacional in Lima.
Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie was one of seven Scots to gain their first caps in the stifling heat with a Christian Cueva penalty and a 47th-minute strike from Jefferson Farfan enough to ensure victory for the hosts, who are ranked 11th in the world.
The wisdom of taking on friendlies against Peru and Mexico in South America has been questioned but McLeish was convinced playing in such tough conditions in front of 40,000 fans was a worthwhile exercise for his young players.
He said: “I’m proud of the mentality they showed in a cauldron of a place. They embraced it.
“I felt we contained Peru very well. They are a good team with players who are technically good, very strong and quick.
“The first goal was a big setback. It was really a basic ball over the top and normally it should be easy for the defender but we didn’t deal with it.
“Overall I was happy with the team’s display. I thought the defenders were very strong, very organised and we didn’t make it easy for Peru.
“The second half, after the early goal, it gave them some more confidence to show their skills and at that moment in the game it was a bit difficult. We got over it and made a couple of chances but never really threatened the goal.
“Maybe if we did other things we could have had a goal out of the game.”
Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer was one of four debutants in the starting line-up and it proved to be a difficult encounter for the 25-year-old, who was at fault for both goals.
Kilmarnock right-back Stephen O’Donnell and Hibernian duo, Lewis Stevenson and Dylan McGeouch, were included in a side captained by Blackburn Rovers skipper Charlie Mulgrew who, in winning his 35th cap, was the most experienced player in the team.
Archer had looked sharp before conceding the opening goal, turning a 25-yard Cueva free kick around the post and dealing with a tame Farfan effort comfortably.
But he paid the price for a rush of blood to the head just before the interval. Archer raced out of his goal in an attempt to clear a long punt when Mulgrew appeared to have the situation under control. The loose ball fell kindly to Farfan whose goal-bound effort was blocked by the elbow of Dons defender Scott McKenna, leaving Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero no option but to point to the spot.
Cueva drilled the 37th-minute penalty low and hard into the corner of the net. The Peruvians doubled their advantage two minutes into the second half and again Archer did not look clever as Farfan’s weak 12-yard shot squirmed under him.
In the 63rd minute, Oliver McBurnie and Callum Paterson replaced Jamie Murphy and John McGinn before Celtic’s Lewis Morgan came on for Matt Phillips to make his debut.
Shinnie, who had sacrificed going on his stag-do to represent his country, was rewarded with his first cap in the 76th minute in place of McGeouch before Chris Cadden made his debut as a late replacement for Kenny McLean.
The Aberdeen captain will hope to get more time on the pitch when the Scots take on Mexico at the Azteca Stadium this weekend.
This was a testing night for the men in blue shirts but they emerged with their dignity intact.
Despite managing to contain Peru for long spells with some well-organised defending there are some concerns which McLeish will have to address as a matter of priority.
Most crucially his side struggled to threaten in the final third of the pitch and failed to register a single shot on target in the 90 minutes. The Scotland manager is realistic about the job he has on his hands.
He paid due respect to Ricardo Gareca’s side, who will be at their first World Cup finals in 36 years when the tournament kicks off in Russia next month. McLeish admitted there was a gulf in quality between the sides.
He added: “They are at a better level than us, we have to be honest on that. But I don’t think that is a secret.
“I believe the Peru team’s management thought they could beat Scotland easily.
“Yes, maybe we had to do other things to try to get some kind of result but overall, the organisation of the team was good and the players’ concentration was good.
“Some haven’t played at this level before but I do see a very good level in the Peru team.
“They have improved under the coach. These guys know each other, they have worked on movement for maybe the last two years and you could see the results.”