Miller's goals help Scotland rediscover winning feeling

Norway 1 Scotland 2
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The Independent Football

Although Miller has not scored for Wolves this season, a first-half brace took his tally for Scotland to four inside a month. Ole Martin Arst finally replied in the 89th minute, but Norway, who would have eliminated Scotland had they won, deserved nothing more from a one-dimensional, route-one display.

Scotland are still underdogs, with games at home to Belarus and in Slovenia, whereas Norway receive bottom-placed Moldova and visit Belarus. But as Aage Hareide's players trudged off, and the Tartan Army rediscovered triumphalism, one sensed that the momentum may now be with Smith's resurgent side.

The former Rangers and Everton manager was too shrewd to claim as much. "We have a chance now," he said. "We've always had to depend on other results and still do. We can get 16 points and Norway 18, but now the pressure's on them."

Before kick-off, viewers of Norway's national television news discovered what lies under a kilt. For an expectant home nation, the nasty surprises kept coming. The first arrived when Claus Lundekvam had an early "goal" disallowed for a barely discernable push on Steven Pressley

Scotland's growing ascendancy, manifested in the midfield craft of Darren Fletcher and Barry Ferguson, was rewarded in the 21st minute. James McFadden, scarcely noted for his heading, rose above a static Jan Gunnar Solli to redirect the ball towards Miller, who deftly flicked it beyond Thomas Myhre.

Ten minutes later, Paul Hartley's cross was going out for a goal-kick when Andre Bergdolmo mysteriously elected to make a diving header. His clearance flew straight to Scotland's lone striker, who sidefooted it into the net with what appeared a mixture of delight and disbelief.

A hip injury saw Miller withdrawn before half-time. By then, however, he might have completed a 17-minute hat-trick, Bergdolmo hurling himself in front of the striker's goalbound shot.

The home crowd, having arrived harbouring visions of overhauling Italy and claiming automatic qualification, booed their team off at half-time. When they reappeared, Hareide had sent on three substitutes.

Norway still resorted to aerial combat at every opportunity. In the 48th minute, Craig Gordon dashed out to block Christian Grindheim's shot at point-blank range after John Carew's touch-on, then made a fine save from the towering striker's header.

Scotland initially gave as good as they received, McFadden testing Myhre with a header. Yet as they were pushed ever deeper, it became a test of the heading ability of David Weir and his cohorts as Arst added his height to an increasingly desperate cause.

They passed it with surprisingly few alarms, and could have put the outcome beyond lingering doubt when one substitute, Craig Beattie, crossed for the other, Neil McCann, only for Myhre to turn his shot aside. Despite Arst's late riposte, nothing could take the sheen off Scotland's success.

NORWAY (4-2-3-1): Myhre (Charlton); Solli (Rosenborg), Lundekvam (Southampton), Riseth (Rosenborg), Bergdolmo (FC Copenhagen); Andresen (Bran Bergen), Grindheim (Valerenga); Valencia (Start), Ostenstad (Viking Stavanger), Riise (Liverpool); Carew (Lyon). Substitutes: Braaten (Rosenborg) for Ostenstad, h-t; Arst (Tromso) for Valencia, h-t; Haested (Start) for Solli, h-t.

SCOTLAND (3-4-2-1): Gordon (Hearts); Pressley (Hearts), Weir (Everton), Webster (Hearts); Alexander (Preston), Fletcher (Manchester United), Ferguson (Rangers), McNamara (Wolves); Hartley (Hearts), McFadden (Everton); K Miller (Wolves). Substitutes: McCann (Southampton) for Miller, 41; Beattie (Celtic) for McFadden, 73.

Referee: A Hamer (Luxembourg).

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