Euro 2012 qual. - Mackail-Smith keeps alive Scots' Euro hopes

Sat, 08 Oct 20:19:00 2011

Scotland kept alive their hopes of a Euro 2012 play-off spot courtesy of Craig Mackail-Smith's headed goal in a 1-0 win over Liechtenstein in a grim Vaduz.

Scotland's Craig Mackail-Smith celebrates his goal with team mates during their Euro 2012 qualifying Group I soccer match against Liechtenstein in Vaduz - 0

It was not particularly pretty from Craig Levein's side on a greasy pitch, but they were thankful to the Brighton forward Mackail-Smith who popped up on 32 minutes to head home from Phil Bardsley's cross in his first start for Scotland.

Scotland are one point ahead of Czech Republic in second place in Group I, but face a daunting night on Tuesday when they visit world and European champions Spain in Alicante.

The Scots have to hope Lithuania can do them a favour against the Czechs - who they host in their final group match - otherwise they will need to match the Czechs' result on the night.

That may involve them having to leave Spain with three points.

Scotland can at least revel in better conditions in Alicante after traipsing off the park soaked in a freezing Vaduz.

Scotland - with skipper Darren Fletcher in their side, but without the injured striker Kenny Miller - dominated without managing to finish off the home side as a lack of finesse and quality in the final third denied the visitors a second goal they probably deserved.

Steven Naismith saw a header fly wide of the target on 10 minutes as Scotland set up camp in the home half, but Liechtenstein were always a threat on the rare occasions they managed to get forward.

Allan McGregor made an agile stop to tip Thomas Beck's shot over the bar on 17 minutes before Naismith headed straight at Liechtenstein keeper Jehle when it looked easier to score from Barry Bannan's cross.

Naismith bounded beyond Peter Jehle on 22 minutes, but managed to drag the shot into the side of the net when he seemed likely to hit the back of the net.

Mackail-Smith eased the tension among the visiting fans when he rose to loop a header over Jehle for a goal that proved to be the winner.

Scotland's levels dropped in the second period, but they were rarely in danger as Bardsley nodded over the bar from Adam's corner on 54 minutes.

Liechtenstein managed one more meaningful thrust towards the visiting goal, but Nicolas Hasler's shot was expertly dealt with by McGregor 19 minutes from time.

Scotland almost grabbed a second goal in the death throes of the match, but Jehle was on hand to claw out a header by Naismith before doing likewise to deprive Christophe Berra of a goal seconds later.

Miller may return for the match in Spain depending upon his groin injury, but Mackail-Smith has done himself no harm with a goal and a tireless performance in his first start for his country.


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