Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Scotland 2 Liechtenstein 1: Stephen McManus saves blushes with last touch of the game



By John Greechan

Mobbed: Stephen McManus saved the blushes of an entire nation with his 97th-minute winner

Relieved Scotland boss Craig Levein last insisted that points mattered more than performance after an unbelievably dramatic late victory over tiny Liechtenstein.

Astonishingly, combined with Lithuania’s shock 1-0 win against the Czech Republic in Prague, Scotland now stand on top of European Championship qualifying Group I.

A goal from Stephen McManus in the seventh minute of injury time gave the Scots a scrappy 2-1 comeback victory at Hampden, after Kenny Miller had equalised a stunning opener from visiting skipper Mario Frick.

And Levein hailed the McManus header as a turning point in a campaign just two games old, saying: ‘I don’t think anybody who watched the game would say that we were at our best.

‘But, come the end of the group stage, maybe that will be the most valuable goal in our entire qualifying campaign.

‘Obviously, I’m a very happy man. We’re top of the group with four points. That’s the most important thing. ‘A lot of people will want to talk about how we didn’t do this or that correctly. It’s irrelevant.

'The result matters. The fact that the Czech Republic lost to Lithuania makes our result on Friday (a 0-0 draw in Kaunas) look a little bit better.

‘Of course tonight could be a turning point. There is a big difference between two and four points. The group is wide open. We didn’t play with much fluency at all, but we kept going, showed a bit of grit and determination.

Breakthrough: Liechtenstein's Mario Frick (left) looked to upset the odds with his second half strike

‘We can play much better. But the criticism will be levelled at our performance, when I would like to make a point of complimenting Liechtenstein. They made it extremely difficult for us.

‘I don’t think any of my teams have ever scored a more important goal.’

Levein revealed that he had gone against his instincts by picking a relatively attacking line-up against a side ranked 100 places below Scotland — but signalled a return to safety-first tactics in the future.

‘I said on Friday that we set out to play a certain way, but I changed that today — against my better judgment,’ he said. ‘Luckily, we were able to retrieve the situation — so there is maybe a lesson in there for us. But we took a risk.’

Level terms: Kenny Miller ended his Scotland goal drought with a stunning volley

James McFadden was hooked at half-time, Levein explaining: ‘I felt he was off the boil. I felt we needed something different.

Half-century: Darren Fletcher notched up his 50th Scotland cap

‘I keep going back to this energy, desire and willingness to work for each other. That’s the most important thing.

‘We don’t have the best players in the world, but we can be as good a team as anybody else. I was really pleased with a couple of things, James Morrison’s performance among them. He showed some fantastic ability on the ball.

‘Barry Robson showed aggression in the left-back area. Stevie Naismith brought a lot of energy to the team.’

Liechtenstein boss Hans-Peter Zaugg was furious with Victor Shvetsov for the amount of injury-time played, confronting the official at full-time.

And afterwards he said: ‘Definitely, the referee played far too long. We are such a small nation, real minnows, and we played such a fantastic game here in Glasgow.

‘Then there’s a game where they show five minutes extra time, then actually it’s seven extra minutes played. I can live with half a minute more, one minute more — but not this.’

Levein dismissed Zaugg’s complaints, saying: ‘I think the ref had every right to add it on, because even in injury-time there were substitutions and time wasting.’

source: dailymail


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