Lithuania Under-21 0 Scotland Under-21 3: Stark reminder as young Scots close down leaders

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The Independent Football

Scotland kept up their bid to qualify for next summer's Uefa Under-21 Championship with an impressive victory in Lithuania. Goals from Scott Arfield, Ross McCormack and Kevin McDonald ensured Billy Stark's side moved up to second in Group Six on goal difference, two points behind leaders Finland.

After a poor start to the campaign, Scotland have now won four straight qualifiers and have two games left to secure their place in the play-offs. They went into yesterday's match, in the small industrial city of Marijampole, close to the Polish border, with a game in hand over Finland and second-placed Denmark. Scotland took control as early as the fourth minute when Falkirk midfielder Arfield opened the scoring with a header after a cross from McDonald hit the bar and wrong-footed Lithuania goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis.

Tomas Vysniauskas came close to levelling with a shot which went close to the top right corner. There was a blow for the visitors when Aberdeen's Charlie Mulgrew was carried off on a stretcher following a tackle in the 28th minute, to be replaced by Hearts forward Calum Elliot. McCormack doubled Scotland's lead in the 39th minute, weaving his way into the area before finishing into the bottom corner.

A defensive lapse almost let Nerijus Valskis pull a goal back but his volley flew over the bar and the Scots escaped. Lithuania started the second half on the front foot, as expected, with Scotland forced to clear the ball off the line at one stage. But they made the game safe after an hour when a goalkeeping fumble lead to the ball running loose in the penalty box, allowing McDonald to poke it home.

Scotland went close to adding another to their tally in the 77th minute after Elliot blasted the ball at goal, forcing a brilliant reflex save from Arlauskis. From the resulting corner, another heroic save from the Lithuanian goalkeeper prevented McCormack's shot from going in. Elliot continued to be a threat for the remainder of the match and produced a headed attempt from close range that beat the goalkeeper but bounced over off the crossbar.

Lithuania U21: Arlauskis, Freidgeimas, Klimavicius, Gnedojus, Slavickas, Cinikas, Fridrikas, Leimonas, Vysniauskas, Valskis, Razulis. Substitutes: Vertelis, Vaitkunas, Birskys, Matulevicius, Kuklys, Urbsys, Papsys.

Scotland U21: MacDonald, Caddis, Wallace, McArthur, Cuthbert, Considine, Lennon, Arfield, Ross McCormack, McDonald, Mulgrew. Substitutes: McLean, Mitchell, Darren McCormack, Robertson, Conroy, Dorrans, Elliot.

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