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Naismith volley keeps Scotland's Euro hopes alive

06 Sep 2011 22:30:13

Naismith volley keeps Scotland's Euro hopes alive

Scotland kept their slim hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 alive with a narrow 1-0 win over Lithuania at Hampden on Tuesday.

Craig Levein's side came out looking to banish the memory of Saturday's disappointing draw with the Czech Republic and had the best of the early opportunities.

They were presented with a golden chance to open the scoring in the 44th minute when Tadas Labukas punched away Barry Bannan's free-kick but Darren Fletcher saw his spot-kick saved by Zydrunas Karcemarskas.

However Steven Naismith made no mistakes when he got on the end of Bannan's chipped pass to send a half-volley in off the post in the 50th minute.

The win leaves Scotland on eight points in Group I, two behind second-placed Czech Republic with away games against Liechtenstein and world champions Spain to come in October.

At Hampden, David Goodwillie, Bannan and Don Cowie came in for their first competitive starts while Steven Whittaker relegated Alan Hutton to the bench.

Bannan made a bright start with his cross from the right almost finding the head of Naismith while Blackburn's Goodwillie was almost clean through after turning his marker only to be stopped by Marius Zaliukas.

The ball broke to Christophe Berra at the back post after Phil Bardsley knocked down Bannan's corner but the Wolves defender couldn't get his shot on target.

Scotland squandered another opportunity moments later when Goodwillie played a Naismith header into Cowie's path who blazed the ball over from 12 yards.

Aston Villa's Bannan was the creative force for Scotland and he sent Cowie scampering down the right only for the Cardiff City man to see his cross cleared by Zaliukas before Goodwillie could convert it.

Rangers' Naismith then got on the end of a Bannan cross but the forward couldn't direct his diving header away from keeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas who easily held it.

Scotland turned up the pressure just before the break with captain Darren Fletcher cutting in from the by-line to unleash a fierce strike that the keeper could only turn round the post.

James Morrison then tested the keeper with a long range drive before Scotland were awarded a 44th minute penalty when Labukas stuck out his hand to punch away a Bannan free-kick.

The Brann player somehow escaped with a yellow card and Fletcher saw Karcemarskas dive low to his left to save the Manchester United player's weak spot kick.

However Naismith spared Fletcher's blushes five minutes after the break when he beat the off-side trap to race into the box to get on the end of Bannan's chipped pass over the Lithuanian defence to send his angled shot in off the post to open the scoring.

Morrison then let fly with a rising shot from 20 yards but Karcemarskas plucked it out the air.

Lithuania then broke down the left and Arvydas Novikovas' cross took a deflection forcing Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor to awkwardly turn the ball round the post.

Scotland were appealing for a penalty when Naismith headed Goodwillie's cross off

The home side then had a lucky escape when Arvydas Novikovas was glanced wide by the head of substitute Tomas Danilevicius before Novikovas sent a shot just over McGregor's bar.

Deividas Cesnauskis' arm before the Rangers man sent his header wide when Bannan returned the ball into the box.


AFP

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