Scotland 3 Ukraine 0: McLeish prepares Scots for final push

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Another fine victory for Scotland, yet they could win in Georgia on Wednesday – and take their points tally to an eye-popping 27 in Euro 2008's toughest qualifying group – and still not make it. As things stand, their final game – at home to Italy on 17 November – has every chance of being boom or bust.

On the other hand, if Scotland leave Tbilisi in midweek with more points than France manage at home against Lithuania on the same night, they will have qualified with a match to spare, whatever else happens in this extraordinary campaign. Those are just two of many permutations in this odyssey for Alex McLeish's side after Saturday's triumph.

Two goals up inside 10 minutes via set-piece conversions by Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch, Scotland were pegged back to 2-1 by Andrei Shevchenko, weathered a squall, then wrapped things up with James McFadden's third international goal in three games. There were also four penalty shouts, two for each side (none given), eight yellow cards (given strangely at times) and plenty of other chances. There is not a shred of doubt that Scotland merited the points, with big performances across the park.

Scott Brown was immense: hurrying, harrying, getting stuck in, getting upended, passing, surging, dictating. The Celtic midfielder has done well before but came of age as a Scotland player on Saturday. Alan Hutton, marauding from right-back, was superb. McFadden was effervescent, Miller tireless. The back line was solid, and Craig Gordon secure when tested in goal.

Scotland deserve this morning's top spot in Group B. There is even one scenario where they may already have done enough to progress – if France get no more than two points from their games with Lithuania and in Ukraine. Or Scotland could lose to Georgia but still qualify by beating Italy. Or they could get only two points from two games and still make it, as long as France do not pick up more than four more points.

On and on it goes. If a double-decker of Tartan Army fans leaves Glasgow's Buchanan Street bus station for Tbilisi at midday today travelling at 35mph, stopping once every four hours for a 30-minute refreshment break, while a minibus leaves George Square at 3pm, travelling at 37mph but stopping more often for less time, who will arrive sober? Nobody, of course.

These are heady days, but with the Scots scheduled to fly east at 10.30am today, minds are focused on just one thing: beating Georgia despite a depleted and injury-hit squad.

McCulloch is suspended after a yellow card, although an ankle knock would have kept him out anyway. The card was for dissent, for asking the referee why McFadden did not get a penalty in first-half injury time. Good question. No answer.

Garry O'Connor, a late sub, also got a booking that means he misses Wednesday. Brown hobbled off and a hamstring problem rules him out. Miller and Hutton (also out) departed with knocks, as did Barry Ferguson and Gary Naysmith. Reading's Graeme Murty has been drafted. Darren Fletcher has been cleared by Manchester United to play, and McLeish has options if some of the injured do not recover.

Christian Dailly can cover in defence or midfield and "has got to be in the mix", according to McLeish. Graham Alexander and Jay McEveley offer defensive back-up. Strikers McFadden and Shaun Maloney can both play on the flanks, which would still leave McLeish with Miller, Kris Boyd or Craig Beattie up front.

"It is a challenge to the boys who come in now, should any of these players not make it," McLeish said. "Fletcher has a good chance of starting. He might tire late on but I don't think his sharpness will be affected. I don't have much choice, anyway."

McLeish reiterated – for the umpteenth time – that Italy and France, who both won on Saturday, are still the favourites to go through.

"We've got two cup finals left and it would be very hard for us if we didn't qualify. But we're still neck-and-neck with two of the top four teams in the world. The smart money would still be on the Italians and French. But we can do this. And it is our intention to do this."

He praised Brown's dynamism, said Hutton "has matured fantastically" and described the goals as "belters". Brown won free-kicks for the first two, McFadden supplying Miller for the first, then Ferguson cleverly teeing up McCulloch. Hutton's pass set up McFadden for the third.

"The performance was the best of my tenure at Hampden," McLeish said. "But it can get even better."

Goals: Miller (4) 1-0; McCulloch (10) 2-0; Shevchenko (24) 2-1; McFadden (68) 3-1.

Scotland (4-4-1-1): Gordon (Sunderland); Hutton (Rangers), Weir (Rangers), McManus (Celtic), Naysmith (Sheffield United); Brown (Celtic), Ferguson (Rangers), Pearson (Derby), McCulloch (Rangers); McFadden (Everton); Miller (Derby). Substitutes used: Dailly (West Ham) on for McCulloch, 60; Maloney (Aston Villa) on for Brown, 77; O'Connor (Birmingham) on for McFadden, 81.

Ukraine (4-3-3): Shovkovskiy (Dynamo Kiev); Nesmachniy (Dynamo Kiev), Chygrynskiy (Shakhtar Donetsk), Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yezerskiy (Shakhtar Donetsk); Gusev (Dynamo Kiev), Tymoschuk (Zenit St Petersburg), Vorobey (Dnipro); Gladkiy (Shakhtar Donetsk), Shevchenko (Chelsea), Voronin (Liverpool). Substitutes used: Rotan (Dynamo Kiev) on for Gusev, h-t; Nazarenko (Dnipro) on for Vorobey, 62; Shelayev (Dnipro) on for Tymoschuk, 73.

Referee: P Vink (Netherlands).

Booked: Scotland McCulloch, Ferguson, Miller, O'Connor. Ukraine Nesmachniy, Shevchenko, Vorobey, Rotan.

Man of the match: Brown.

Attendance: 51,336.

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