Scotland cruise through to the finals

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The Independent Online
PHIL SHAW

reports from Hampden Park

Scotland 5 San Marino 0

Scotland rubber-stamped their qualification for the European Championship finals with a routine victory over the Group Eight makeweights in the wind and rain here last night. Five players shared the goals, with San Marino's Fabio Francini completing the scoring with a hapless diving header in the final seconds.

With only one defeat in their group games, Scotland had already proved their resilience. In this game, Craig Brown, their manager, wanted to to "entertain and score goals''.

San Marino have become masters in the art of spoiling, however, and the match quickly became a test of Scottish patience and ingenuity.

Eoin Jess, making his first appearance since the section's opening fixture in Finland, had two chances before he finally broke the deadlock.

Partnering his club-mate Scott Booth in attack, despite having been converted to midfield by Aberdeen, Jess lifted the ball over Stefano Muccioli in the ninth minute, only for the pony-tailed Federico Moroni to clear off the line.

Four minutes later Jess scuffed his shot after outpacing a pedestrian defence, and the crowd's frustration mounted when Muccioli, reacting late, fisted out a goal-bound free-kick by Gary McAllister. San Marino might even have scored themselves midway through the first half but the unmarked Marco Mularoni, one of two visitors wearing gloves, hesitated just long enough for Alan McLaren to avert the danger.

Scotland eventually went ahead on the half-hour. Intercepting a pass, Pat Nevin advanced almost to the byline before cutting the ball back. Jess's first-time shot from 10 yards opened his account at international level. On the stroke of half-time, Scot Gemmill drove a low cross from a similar position, and this time Booth applied the finishing touch from close range.

Brown felt confident enough to withdraw McAllister, whose gruelling schedule with club and country has left him carrying an injury, early in the second half. Within two minutes his replacement Ally McCoist, headed the third goal at the far post from another Nevin centre - his 17th in 49 appearances for Scotland.

Further changes saw the departure of Booth and John Collins, Scotland's only ever-present during the campaign. One of the substitutes Billy McKinlay, set up the fourth goal after 71 minutes with a drive that Muccioli spilled straight to Nevin, who sidefooted his fifth international goal. Hardly vintage stuff, though the Hampden faithful were happy enough with their songs about "Going to Wemberlee" next summer.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Leighton (Hibernian), McLaren (Rangers), Hendry (Blackburn), Calderwood (Tottenham); Nevin (Tranmere), Gemmill (Nottingham Forest), McAllister (Leeds), Collins, Boyd (both Celtic); Jess, Booth (both Aberdeen). Substitutes: McCoist (Rangers) for McAllister, 48; McKinlay (Blackburn) for Collins, 58; Jackson (Hibernian) for Booth, 65.

SAN MARINO (1-3-5-1): Muccioli (Valconca), Guerra (Juvenes); Moroni (Juvenes), Valentini (Rimini), Gennari (Juvenes); Manzaaroli (AC San Marino), Francini (Belloria-Igea Marina), Mazza (Carveteri), Matteoni, Mularoni (both Juvenes); Bacciocchi (Santarcangiolese). Substitutes: Canti (Falgore Falciano) for Mularoni, 51; Montagna (Juvenes) for Guerra, 70; Della Valle (Taverna) for Mazza, 81.

Referee: Karl Bohunek (Cz Rep).

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