Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Scotland keep faint Euro 2012 hopes alive

A Steven Naismith second half winner was just about enough as Scotland edged past a tricky Lithuania side, who had chances late on to level the game.

The win keeps Craig Levein's sides qualification chances intact, with group minnows Liechtenstein up next for the Tartan Army.

After Scotland's controversial 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic on Saturday, anything bar three points would've all but mathematically ended their hopes of progressing to Poland and Ukraine in 2012. And in a first half performance that continued the trend of their performance on the weekend they were dominate, and only a lack of composure prevented them from scoring early.

The first real chance of note fell to Christophe Berra who blazed over from four yards after a dangerous Barry Bannan cross wasn't cleared properly. Despite the chance falling onto his least favoured right foot, the Wolves centre half really should've opened the scoring.

Don Cowie joined Berra on the guilty list when the Cardiff midfielder blazed his well presented chance over the bar. However it was captain Darren Fletcher who spurned the Scots best opening in on the stroke of half time.

Inexplicably Lithuania's Tadas Labukas handled the ball from Bannan's free kick, gifting Scotland the chance to open the scoring. Unfortunately for Scotland though, their penalty misfortune continued as Fletcher saw his tame effort easily saved by in the Lithuanian goal.

Despite the penalty miss and the half time whistle the Hampden Park faithful didn't have to wait long for their sides opener, in what proved to be the crucial move of the match. The impressive Bannan, received the ball from David Goodwille, and the Villa man found Naismith all alone in the Lithuanian penalty box, and the forward finished brilliantly with a first time shot.

The relief was palpable around the ground, and with the sides only prior victory a last minute one against bottom side Liechtenstein, the emotion due to the breakthrough was understandable.

The goal scorer Naismith twice in quick succession missed the chance to kill the game off, and the Scottish match winner was nearly made to pay as Lithuania threatened an unlikely leveler as Tomas Danilevicius saw his well connected header go marginally wide of Alan McGregor's far post.

However that was to be Lithuania's best chance and snatching a point and shortly after the Icelandic referee blew a close to the action, in doing so ensuring Scotland secured a massive three points, which means they now trail Czech Republic by two points in Group I.

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