Scotland keep play-off hopes alive

Liechtenstein 0 Scotland 1
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The Independent Online

For once, Scotland did not suffer one of their neurotic moments. The obligation was to win this game and go into the final round of Euro 2012 qualifying games with a chance of reaching the play-offs. The nation has become accustomed to moments of agony on these occasions, but this was a performance that refused to delve into melancholy.

On his first start for Scotland, and with a bustling earnestness to his display, Craig Mackail-Smith rose to the challenge and scored the decisive goal.

There were other notable figures, particularly Charlie Adam and Barry Bannan. This was an efficient performance that will hearten Craig Levein when the final task of Group I is to keep hold of second place when the last match on Tuesday night is against Spain, while the Czech Republic, one point behind in third, go to Lithuania.

Scotland hoarded possession, but when Thomas Beck cut infield, then hit a fierce drive from 25 yards that Allan McGregor tipped over, there was a warning to be vigilant. Unbowed, the visitors worked the ball upfield and Bannan's lobbed cross allowed Steven Naismith a header, which Peter Jehle pushed away.

Even when he beat the goalkeeper by rounding him, Naismith was thwarted; the angle was tight and with the goal open, he fired the ball into the side-netting.

Scotland's rising angst might have played a part in the breakthrough, since they momentarily dispensed with their short, deliberate passing game when Phil Bardsley launched a high ball into the penalty area. It looked speculative, but the full-back had seen Mackail-Smith's clever run off his marker, and the striker headed the ball beyond Jehle for his first international goal.

Liechtenstein (4-4-2): Jehle; Ritzberger, Stocklasa, Kaufmann, Rechsteiner; Hanselmann (Eberle, 75), Polverino, Buchel (Kieber, 71), Beck; Frick; Hasler.

Scotland (4-1-4-1): McGregor; Hutton, Caldwell, Berra, Bardsley; Fletcher; Bannan (Forrest, 73), Adam (Cowie, 76), Morrison, Naismith; Mackail-Smith.

Referee Tom Hagen.

Man of the match Adam (Scotland).

Match rating 5/10.

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