Sport Soccer

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Mackail-Smith keeps Scotland's hopes alive

Ronnie Esplin

Craig Mackail-Smith's first goal in his first international start yesterday set Scotland up for a huge clash in Spain on Tuesday night as Craig Levein's side kept their Euro 2012 play-off hopes alive.

Mackail-Smith's 32nd-minute goal edged the Scots past Liechtenstein in their Group I qualifier in the Rheinpark Stadium and, with Czech Republic losing 2-0 to runaway group winners Spain in Prague on Friday night, Levein's men moved into second place behind the world and European champions.

Victory in Alicante will guarantee them a play-off spot. The Czechs, a point behind Scotland, are away to Lithuania in their final game.

Steven Naismith had missed three good chances as the visitors dominated, although Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor made a great save from Thomas Beck. But in the 32nd minute Brighton striker Mackail-Smith, playing in place of the injured Kenny Miller, headed home Phil Bardsley's cross to break the deadlock.

Scotland came out of the traps for the second half showing the same determination which had allowed them to dominate the first 45 minutes.

They were eager for a second goal to give them some breathing space and they came close in the 54th minute when Bardsley headed a Charlie Adam corner just over the bar after escaping his marker at the near post. Five minutes later, the Sunderland defender failed to control a raking Barry Bannan pass after nipping in behind the Liechtenstein defence.

Still the visitors kept pushing but Liechtenstein defended resolutely.

Naismith headed over Alan Hutton's cross as the Scots looked to kill off the spirited hosts, but in the end a single goal was enough to keep the Tartan Army in the hunt.

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