Sunday 21 January 2018

Snodgrass strikes as Scots stun Croatia

Robert Snodgrass was the hero as Scotland pulled off a major shock by picking up their first win in the World Cup qualifiers by beating Croatia 1-0 in Zagreb.

Robert Snodgrass was the hero as Scotland pulled off a major shock by picking up their first win in the World Cup qualifiers by beating Croatia 1-0 in Zagreb.

Gordon Strachan's men headed into the match already out of the race for Brazil 2014 and a staggering 70 places behind Croatia in the world rankings, and were massive underdogs to claim a positive result.

But Snodgrass restored his country's pride when he grabbed the only goal of the game to hand the Scots their first competitive victory since they beat Liechtenstein in October 2011.

England's qualifying hopes received a huge boost when Ukraine beat Montenegro 4-0 to throw Group H wide open. Montenegro still lead the group with 14 points but England are now back in control of their own destiny as they are only two points behind with a game in hand.

Ukraine, who also have a game less played than the leaders, are a point behind England.

A late goal by defender Tom Hogli gave Norway a 1-1 draw with Albania in Tirana and prevented the hosts from going top of Group E. Albania, who have never qualified for the finals of a major tournament, have 10 points from six games, one behind group leaders Switzerland.

Elsewhere, 10-man Italy were held to a 0-0 draw by the Czech Republic in Group B in a match where star striker Mario Balotelli was sent off in the second half. The draw still allowed Italy to pull four points clear of second-place Bulgaria with four games to go. The Czechs are third, five points behind Italy and still have hopes of reaching Brazil.

Balotelli was sent off in the 72nd minute after receiving his second yellow card.

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made two good saves to keep the game scoreless. He raced off his line to deny Petr Jiracek in the first half and did the same in the second to prevent Libor Kozak from netting.

Portugal leapfrogged Russia into top spot in Group F after Helder Postiga's ninth-minute goal proved enough for a 1-0 victory in the Estadio de Luz.

Cristiano Ronaldo went close on a number of occasions for the home side and Vladimir Bystrov almost equalised for Russia in the second half but Portugal held out.

Irish Independent

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