Saturday 24 September 2016

Strachan's mind now on Georgia as Anya slams McCarthy's flying elbow

Roddy Forsyth

Published 15/06/2015 | 02:30

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan waves to his supporters after the game
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan waves to his supporters after the game

Waiting beside the team bus to usher the last stragglers on board for Dublin airport, Gordon Strachan mused on the significance of the result.

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"That was our most important game in the group," he said.

After a pause, the Scotland manager added: "Who do we play next? Oh, yeah - Georgia. Now that becomes our most important game in the group."

If Strachan was being a touch sardonic, he was also commenting aptly on the emerging pattern of Group D, in which Poland, the only unbeaten side, are on 14 points, with Germany one point behind. Germany host the Poles on September 4, when the Scots are in Tbilisi and Ireland play Gibraltar.

A 2-0 defeat in the Georgian capital in 2007 proved fatal to Scotland's hopes of qualifying for the following year's Euro finals and a repeat would likely have the same consequence, but under Strachan the Scots have proved durable - as they demonstrated in a roiling broth of a contest at the Aviva Stadium.

Connoisseurs of the beautiful game would have found nothing to compel their attention but, as Jock Stein used to observe, the dress code for qualifiers is dungarees and best suits are reserved for the finals.

Strachan was not inclined to make much of the failure of the Italian officials to spot that Jon Walters was offside when he scored Ireland's goal.

"That didn't bother me - what worried me was that we kept giving the ball away when there was no real pressure. That just played into their hands."

Strachan took satisfaction from the fact that the equaliser crowned Scotland's best passing movement of a match in which they could not get into their habitual counter-attacking groove.

It was also largely the result of his introduction of Ikechi Anya, who had been left on the bench to make room for Matt Ritchie to universal surprise. Not that Anya was perturbed by his sudden absence from the starting XI.

"It wasn't an easy decision for him (Strachan) and, like any player who doesn't start, you try and make an impact when you come on and luckily I could do that," said the Watford man.

"I don't think he needs to justify any of his decisions. You just try and prove him a bit wrong - with all due respect. I think we are more than capable of going to Georgia and getting three points.

"We knew before the game that it was going to be a physical battle. Some of our players have got a couple of war wounds on them, but we dealt with it well.

"It was important not to lose our cool and make sure we finished with 11 men. Sometimes, the Ireland players were maybe a bit over-physical, but the gaffer let us know what was in store and that was part of what we had to do to get the right result.

"All of our guys showed great composure. Luckily, no one reacted because there were a few challenges there which I think were a bit unacceptable."

One such was James McCarthy's flying elbow, which inflicted a burst nose on Russell Martin and incensed the Scots who were in proximity.

The referee's benevolence extended to a yellow card for McCarthy rather than the red which was clearly merited, as examination of the TV replays confirmed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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