Martin Skrtel’s late own goal kept Scotland’s World Cup dreams alive after 10-man Slovakia threatened to frustrate the hosts at Hampden.
Leigh Griffiths and substitute Chris Martin both hit the bar as Scotland piled on pressure against the visitors, who had Robert Mak sent off midway through the first half after being booked for a penalty-box dive.
Visiting goalkeeper Martin Dubravka pulled off a string of great saves, but was finally beaten in the 88th minute when Skrtel turned Ikechi Anya’s low cross home under pressure from Martin as Scotland won 1-0 to move second in Group F.
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Star man – Dubravka
Dubravka almost wrote himself into Scottish football folklore as the nemesis of another World Cup campaign. The Sparta Prague goalkeeper threw himself to parry Christophe Berra’s header in a save reminiscent of Gordon Banks’ stop from Pele in 1970 and continued to frustrate the hosts. He produced two excellent stops from Griffiths and a point-blank range stop from James Morrison. He got some luck when Martin and Griffiths struck the bar and he proved unbeatable to Scotland players. Thankfully for the hosts he could not keep out an attempted clearance from his own skipper Skrtel.
There might have been no need for the late drama if Serbian official Milorad Mazic had given a ninth-minute spot-kick when Mak body-checked Kieran Tierney inside the box. It looked a clear spot-kick, but the referee waved play on. Mak was off 14 minutes later after a very late challenge on James Forrest and clear dive in the Scotland box and the 10 men eventually folded.
Scotland have now taken 13 points from a possible 15 to put themselves in second place in Group F with a game to go. They still have a difficult task in Slovenia, but their late goal after a night of near misses might just well give them the springboard to shed their unwanted tag of glorious failures.
Player ratingsScotland: Craig Gordon 6, Kieran Tierney 6, Andy Robertson 9, Christophe Berra 6, Charlie Mulgrew 7, Darren Fletcher 8, James Morrison 6, Barry Bannan 6, James Forrest 6, Matt Phillips 5, Leigh Griffiths 8. Substitutes: Chris Martin (on for Forrest, 60) 7, James McArthur (on for Fletcher 79) 6, Ikechi Anya (on for Tierney, 82) 6.
Slovenia v Scotland (World Cup Qualifying, October 8)
Slovakia v Malta (World Cup Qualifying, October 8)
Source: By PA Sport Staff