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Scotland keep World Cup hopes intact with comfortable Malta win

Gordon Strachan’s side are just one point behind second-placed Slovakia in Group D with two matches remaining.

FOOTBALL 05/09/17 15:11
Scotland keep World Cup hopes intact with comfortable Malta win

Scotland kept their World Cup rescue mission on track as they overcame Malta with a businesslike 2-0 win over Malta.

On a night when three points was the bare minimum for the Scots to keep their hopes of claiming a play-off slot alive, Christophe Berra calmed Tartan Army nerves by heading home after nine minutes before Leigh Griffiths added a second just after the break.

For a spell, the biggest danger to Gordon Strachan’s men did not come from their opponents – ranked 190th in the world – but from events at Wembley, where their main challengers for second place Slovakia shocked Group F leaders England by taking the lead.

That then led to the rarest of occurrences at Hampden, however, as the home crowd cheered when news broke that Gareth Southgate’s men had regained control, allowing Scotland to close within a point before next month’s all-important Hampden showdown.

What they said

Scotland's head coach Gordon Strachan watches the World Cup Group F qualifying match against Lithuania
Gordon Strachan was delighted with his side’s efforts in their last two matches (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP/PA)

Scotland manager Gordan Strachan: “When you get to the stage when your fate is in your own hands in a tournament that’s all you can ask. We had 25 attempts at goal. That says it all. It’s 48 in the last two games, so that’s good enough to win games of football.”

Malta manager Pietro Ghedin: “It’s just very difficult against a team like Scotland. If they can play like this I think they can achieve the results they need to get out of the group.”

Tweet of the match

Star man

Striker Leigh Griffiths once again underlined his importance to Scotland. He set up defender Christophe Berra for the opening goal with another accurate corner before notching the second with a poachers’ goal from close range.

Moment of the match

Scotland’s early opener was welcomed by the home support but news of England’s leveller against Slovakia at Wembley took away a lot – but not all – of the nerves which were swirling round the famous old stadium.

View from the bench

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match with Malta
Gordon Strachan’s side have their World Cup qualification hopes in their own hands (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Strachan claimed beforehand that he always expected the unexpected as a manager. The win against Group F’s bottom side was certainly expected. What was unexpected, certainly among the hopeful Tartan Army, was Slovakia taking the lead against England. However, all ended well for the Scotland boss who will turn his attention towards Slovakia.

Ratings

Scotland's Leigh Griffiths celebrates scoring side's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match with Malta
Striker Leigh Griffiths grabbed a goal and an assist at Hampden (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Craig Gordon 6, Kieran Tierney 7, Christophe Berra 7, Charlie Mulgrew 6, Andy Robertson6, Scott Brown: 6, James McArthur 5, Matt Phillips 6, Stuart Armstrong 7, James Forrest 7, Leigh Griffiths 8,

Substitutes James Morrison (on for McArthur, 45) 6, Grant Hanley (on for Mulgrew, 59) 6, Chris Martin (on for Griffiths, 70) 5

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