Marcos Urena’s 14th-minute goal earned Costa Rica a repeat of the famous scoreline they recorded when stunning Scotland in the opening match of the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy.
Jeers from the Tartan Army in a crowd of just over 20,000 greeted the final whistle as McLeish suffered a loss in the first match of his second stint in charge of the national team.
It was the first of five friendly matches Scotland will play before the inaugural Uefa Nations League campaign begins in September. The Scots’ next assignment is against Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday night.
On a night when he handed debuts to five players – Scott McKenna, Scott McTominay, Kevin McDonald, Oli McBurnie and Jamie Murphy – McLeish expressed his hope the circumstances of the occasion would be taken into account.
“I would expect common sense to prevail,” said McLeish. “I was disappointed with the first half but much more pleased with the second half. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. There is a process and I want my record to be good. I’m disappointed with the defeat. We have to nullify the perception it’s the same old Scotland. We need to show that with not only competitive performances, but also winning performances. It’s easy to talk but we are looking for improvement.
“We were off the pace in the first half. We didn’t get the tempo I wanted. We were halfway there but never quite the full way in terms of pressing.
“The second half was much better. With the new caps, there’s not a lot of fluidity in the team compared to Costa Rica who have been together a couple of years.
“It reminded me of playing a League Cup game as a club manager and rotating your squad. It looks good on paper but they don’t have the rhythm of guys playing regularly.
“I see some good things and some not so good things. I’ll look at that before the game against Hungary.
“It was common sense that we looked at some new young players. We have seen some great club form from them. There were a few who did really well and those where the pluses. I do have to get the right system and personnel. ”
Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez was satisfied with his team’s display as they prepare for this summer’s World Cup finals. “I was especially happy with the first half, we were good in possession and also on the counter-attack,” said Ramirez. “We managed the pace of the game well and that’s something we will have to do at the World Cup.”