International round-up: Ikechi Anya shines in Scotland win as Michael O'Neill humbled

 

Shaun Maloney lifted Scotland off the bottom of their group when he grabbed a late winner against Macedonia in Skopje but it was Ikechi Anya who impressed most, the Watford winger inspiring Gordon Strachan's side to victory.

Anya, on his full international debut, set up Steven Naismith in the first half with a cross the Everton striker wastefully headed over, while Scotland captain Scott Brown had his shot blocked by goalkeeper Tome Pachovski when clear through.

The visitors took the lead just before the hour when Anya raced onto a Barry Bannan pass before firing home inside the far post. Macedonia responded and after a period of heavy pressure drew level with just seven minutes to go, Ivan Kostovski getting on the end of Goran Pandev's cross.

Yet Maloney dramatically clinched a 2-1 victory in the 88th minute, curling a 20-yard free-kick into the top corner after James McArthur had been brought down.

Northern Ireland crashed to a humiliating 3-2 defeat to Luxembourg only a month after beating Russia. It was the Duchy's first victory in World Cup qualifiers in 41 years.

Michael O'Neill's side took the lead in the 14th minute when Shane Ferguson played in Martin Paterson to finish emphatically. However, the home side enjoyed the best of the first half, hitting the bar through Lars Gerson and deservedly equalised in the 45th minute when Aurelien Joachim's shot deflected in off Daniel Lafferty.

Luxembourg pressed again after the break and just when it seemed as though their momentum was fading, Stefano Bensi put them 2-1 ahead with a stunning 25-yard drive. Gareth McAuley looked to have spared Northern Ireland's blushes with an equaliser with eight minutes to go, heading in Oliver Norwood's free-kick at the far post, but Mathias Janisch clinched a historic victory when he scored from close-range in the 87th minute.

Afterwards, O'Neill said: "It was very poor, we were disappointing from start to finish. The performance was unacceptable, the energy and work rate was not at the level required."

Not even bringing on Gareth Bale as substitute for the last 30 minutes could save Wales who slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Serbia in Cardiff.

Chris Coleman's side fell behind after just eight minutes when Filip Duricic headed straight at goalkeeper Boaz Myhill from a Aleksandar Kolarov cross but Filip Dordevic headed in the rebound. Kolarov then made it two seven minutes before half-time with a thunderous drive. Lazar Markovic wrapped up victory tucking in the rebound from another Kolarov, though Bale gave the home crowd something to cheer when he went close with a swerving free-kick.

The Republic of Ireland's slender hopes of qualifying were ended by a 1-0 defeat to Austria in Vienna, David Alaba getting the deserved winner with six minutes to go that surely brings the curtain down on Giovanni Trapattoni's reign.

Elsewhere, Italy came from behind to reach Brazil with a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic, Mario Balotelli getting their winner from the penalty spot. Fabio Capello's Russia moved to the top of Group F and pushed Portugal into the play-off places with a 3-1 win over Israel in St Petersburg. Two goals from young Basel defender Fabian Schär put Switzerland on the brink of qualification as Ottmar Hitzfeld's side won 2-0 against Norway.

France ended their goal drought with a 4-2 win against Belarus, Franck Ribéry scoring twice.

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