Shaun Maloney strike gives Scotland victory over Ireland
Scotland boosted their European Championship qualification chances as Shaun Maloney`s superb strike handed them a 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in Group D on Friday.
Glasgow: Scotland boosted their European Championship qualification chances as Shaun Maloney`s superb strike handed them a 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in Group D on Friday.
The Scots dominated a highly-charged first half at Celtic Park with Steven Fletcher and Charlie Mulgrew both off target with headers before Fletcher missed a golden chance to convert a Maloney cross from close range.
However, Gordon Strachan`s side were fortunate not to have Grant Hanley sent off in the 12th minute as he brought down Shane Long who looked to be bearing down on goal.
Ireland improved after the break and Scotland `keeper David Marshall produced a fine save to deny Aiden McGeady.
Substitute Chris Martin was close for Scotland and Jon Walters sent a header off his own bar before Maloney`s fantastic curling effort fired the hosts in front in the 75th minute.
Hanley had the home fans hearts` in their mouths when his backwards header nicked the Scotland bar in stoppage time but Scotland held on to end Ireland`s 12 match unbeaten run in European qualifiers.
The win hauls Scotland level with Ireland and Germany on seven points, just three points behind group leaders Poland.
Scotland made two changes to the side that drew in Poland as Russell Martin and Andrew Robertson came in to replace Gordon Greer and the injured Alan Hutton.
There was no place for record goalscorer Robbie Keane as Southampton striker Shane Long was handed the job of leading the line for Ireland.
Scotland enjoyed the better start but were fortunate in the 12th minute, however, when Hanley was relieved only to pick up a yellow card for bringing down Long with the Blackburn defender appearing to be the last man.
Scots-born McGeady, fired up by the jeers coming from the home fans, then became the first Irish player to enter the referee`s book for a late lunge on Fletcher.
He was soon joined by Jeff Hendrick after he scythed down Steven Whittaker.
Scotland continued to probe for an opener and a good passing move ended with Maloney swinging a dangerous delivery into the box which Mulgrew headed narrowly wide under pressure.
The Scots should have had an opener in the 41st minute. Maloney latched on to a long ball over the top and sent a cut-back in for Fletcher who missed an attempted flick.
Ireland emerged fired up after the break and Long should have done better when Walters knock-down fell for him but his weak header was straight at Marshall.
Former Celtic winger McGeady wasn`t enjoying a happy return to his old stomping ground but he nearly silenced the boo boys on the hour mark.
Scott Brown`s header fell at the feet of his former team-mate and the unsighted Marshall made a last ditch fingertip save to turn his low drive round the post.
Scotland were enjoying plenty of possession but seemed to lack any creative spark until Naismith conquered up something from nothing in the 66th minute.
The Everton forward broke forward and looked up before rolling the ball into Martin`s path but the substitute somehow contrived to poke his first-time effort round the wrong side of David Forde`s post.
The hosts came close to moving ahead in the 74th minute when Walters headed a Mulgrew free-kick off the top of his own crossbar and from the resultant corner Scotland broke the deadlock.
Maloney played a one-two with Anya from a short corner before knocking the ball to Brown in the box who laid the ball off perfectly for Maloney to curl a fantastic strike past Forde.