McAllister wipes away his Wembley misery

Belarus 0 Scotland 1
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The Independent Online
Gary McAllister scored his first international goal for five years as Scotland took another stride along the road to the World Cup finals here yesterday.

McAllister's 49th-minute penalty, which collected three more vital points for Craig Brown's team, helped wipe out the memory of his Wembley spot- kick miss against England during Euro 96 last June.

"That is the Wembley chapter over," McAllister said. "I took four penalties for Coventry last season, but the first one for the international side since Wembley was always going to be important. As soon as we got it, all I was thinking about was that the ball would hit the back of the net."

Brown's side have now won five out of eight qualifying games this season as they seek Group Four security in the race with Austria and Sweden. Belarus, joint bottom of the group, and Latvia have still to come to Scotland and six more points will surely guarantee at least second place for the Scots.

Darren Jackson won the penalty, but it was a harsh decision against Erik Yakhimovich by the Turkish referee, Ahmed Cakar. Paul Lambert fed the ball forward to Jackson who worked a one-two with Gordon Durie before inviting a rash challenge from the Belarus full-back.

McAllister, making his 53rd appearance, accepted his responsibility as captain and although the Belarus keeper, Andrei Satsunkevich, got a touch, the ball found its way into the roof of the net. The last time McAllister scored at this level was at the 1992 European Championship finals in Sweden. That goal was also a penalty - against the CIS.

The breakthrough came after Scotland had survived a rocky first 45 minutes in which Yakhimovich crashed a shot off the woodwork from 50 yards. His seventh-minute effort struck the top of the post to the surprise of Jim Leighton. It seemed to have an unnerving effect on his team-mates, but Leighton redeemed himself with a fine save from an Andrei Ostrovsky free- kick a couple of minutes later and went on to record his 42nd clean sheet in 81 internationals.

Christian Dailly, making his World Cup debut, impressed as did Jackson, but at times Scotland, who had Durie and David Hopkin booked, appeared to be feeling the rigours of a long season in the Minsk heat. "The tank was empty," Brown said.

The Scots also had to cope with the absence of at least 12 players who had already featured in the qualifying campaign. Craig Burley moved into central defence alongside Dailly and Tom Boyd, with the Crystal Palace midfielder Hopkin used at right wing-back. The Hibernian striker Jackson was withdrawn into midfield to allow Durie to partner Kevin Gallacher up front.

Belarus' response to McAllister's goal was to introduce three substitutes in quick succession and one of them, Vladimir Makovsky, might have equalised in the 64th minute but he mis-kicked in front of goal with Scotland in disarray. However, two minutes later Jackson almost made it 2-0 with a fine run and shot which was tipped over the bar.

Scottish hearts fluttered again seven minutes from time, but the substitute Scot Gemmill somehow stole the ball off Sergei Gerasimets' toe when he seemed certain to score.

The 300-strong Tartan Army, who were guarded throughout by a ring of soldiers, were in fine voice in the far from full Dinamo Stadium. The result ensured they would all be hoarse by the time they got home.

Goal: G McAllister (pen 49) 0-1.

BELARUS (4-4-2): Satsunkevich (Lokomotiv Nizhny Novgorod); Yakhimovich (Dynamo Moscow), Shtanyuk (Dynamo Moscow), Ostrovsky (Dynamo Moscow), Lavrik (Dinamo-93 Minsk); Gurenko (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gerasimets (Baltika Kaliningrad), Orlovsky (Torpedo Moscow), Dovnar (Dinamo-93 Minsk); Romashchenko (Spartak Moscow), Khlebosolov (Krylya Sovetov Samara). Substitutes: Belkevich (Dynamo Kiev) for Donvar, 53; Balashov (Dinamo Minsk) for Orlovsky, 66; Makovsky (Dynamo Moscow) for Khlebosolov, 60.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Leighton (Hibernian); Boyd (Celtic), Burley (Chelsea), T McKinlay (Celtic); Lambert (Borussia Dortmund), Dailly (Derby), Gallacher (Blackburn), Hopkin (Crystal Palace); G McAllister (Coventry), D Jackson (Hibernian), Durie (Rangers). Substitutes: Gemmill (Nottingham Forest) for Hopkin, 68; B McAllister (Wimbledon) for T McKinlay, 78; Dodds (Aberdeen) for D Jackson, 87.

Referee: A Cakar (Turkey). Bookings: Belarus: Shtanyuk. Scotland: Hopkin, Durie.

Man of the match: G McAllister.

Attendance: 14,000.