Glasgow: Gordon Strachan hailed his Scotland side after they edged a pulsating Euro 2016 duel with the Republic of Ireland in Glasgow.
The match was played at a frantic pace with careless challenges resulting in early bookings for Grant Hanley, Aiden McGeady and his Irish teammate Jeff Hendrick.
The game looked to be heading for a goalless draw before Shaun Maloney started and finished an exquisite move to curl home a 75th minute winner at Celtic Park.
The win sees Scotland move up to third in the Group D table, level on seven points with Ireland and Germany, and leaves them just three points off leaders Poland.
Strachan singled out Maloney, Ikechi Anya and Steven Naismith for their bravery on the ball against a physical Ireland side.
"Our smaller guys, considering the height and power they were playing against, were very brave. There wasn`t much football on show but any chance they had to try and get it down they did that," Strachan said.
"I thought the three behind the main strikers were very brave on and off the ball.
"That was an epic duel and Ireland were a handful all night. It was like a British Cup tie. We knew what was going to happen and we dealt with it.
"As a footballing spectacle it wasn`t that great, but as a spectacle of two groups of players who didn`t want to give an inch it was mesmerising.
"They wanted to jump higher than each other, run quicker, tackle harder and the fans made it a real occasion.
"We have played some good football in this group and we have come through a more physical duel tonight and dealt with that as well. The players trust each other and know if they`re not having a great night the player next to them will help them out.
"This is the hardest group of all and one goal decides every game."
Fierce rivals England are the next visitors to Celtic Park on Tuesday and Strachan admitted he was likely to make changes for the friendly match against Roy Hodgson`s side.
"I think so because they put so much in that game tonight. That was like a heavyweight boxing match," the Scotland manager said.
The result ended a 12-match unbeaten run for Ireland in European qualifiers after they started the group with wins against Georgia and Gibraltar while also earning a draw away to world champions Germany.
Manager Martin O`Neill, who was returning to Celtic Park where he led the club to three league titles in a five-year spell between 2000-2005, admitted he was disappointed with the defeat but insisted Ireland`s fate was still very much in their own hands.
"That`s us and Scotland on seven points each. In truth I think our own fate will be depend on what happens in the Aviva Stadium. We have four of the next five matches at home and we have come out of what I consider a difficult start," O`Neill said.
"We have played three away games and one at home and have seven points on the board. Scotland have joined us on that and Poland have won in Georgia (4-0) but I still think Germany are the strongest team in the group. It`s going to be tough but we are absolutely still in the group, no doubt.
"Everything is still to play for which I believe would be exactly the same even if we had come out of this game unscathed."
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