Euro 2012 qual. - McManus rescues Scotland

Eurosport - Tue, 07 Sep 22:04:00 2010

Stephen McManus gave Scotland a priceless 2-1 win over lowly Liechtenstein in their Euro 2012 qualifier after the defender scored seven minutes into injury time at Hampden Park.

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Craig Levein's side failed to manage a shot on target in the first half before being stunned when Mario Frick curled a shot into the net from the edge of the box on 46 minutes.

Scotland regained composure to restore parity when Kenny Miller netted with a fine volley on 63 minutes.

Liechtenstein looked like they would hold out for a famous draw until McManus popped up in the box to head home with the last meaningful touch of the game.

The visiting side barely had time to kick off before the referee blew for full-time.

It proved to be a fruitful night for Scotland, who top Group I with four points after Lithuania upset the Czech Republic 1-0 in Olomouc.

Scotland made three changes from the side that was held to a 0-0 draw by Lithuania in their opening group match as Lee Wallace, James McFadden and Kris Boyd started with Barry Robson, Steven Naismith and the injured Steven Whittaker forced to drop out.

Scotland, with skipper Darren Fletcher earning a 50th cap, toiled to break down a stuffy visiting side for long spells of an eminently forgettable first half.

Their best move of the opening 45 minutes saw Boyd narrowly fail to connect with Kenny Miller's cross as Yves Oehri got back to intervene.

Liechtenstein had won plaudits for their efforts in losing 4-0 to Spain on Friday, and showed flashes of what was to come when the former Parma forward Frick set up Sandro Wieser to hammer in a shot that Allan McGregor held.

Levein introduced the lively James Morrison for James McFadden at the break, but the home fans were stunned seconds later when the visitors struck first.

McManus gave Frick too much space on the edge of area and he left McGregor helpless with a wonderful curling attempt that flew beyond the goalkeeper's despairing dive.

Scotland had been booed from the park at the interval and the tension continued to mount as Liechtenstein, ranked 100 places below Scotland at 141 in the FIFA standings and with a population of 36,000, less than the 37,000 crowd inside Hampden, threw everybody behind the ball in a bid to protect their lead.

The sense of relief around Hampden was palpable just after the hour mark when Rangers striker Miller struck a venomous volley from inside the area for his 12th Scotland goal as the ball hit the net via a post.

Liechtenstein were hardly deflated by the loss of the goal and McGregor was called into action again to save from David Hasler with the home defence retreating too deeply.

Tottenham defender Alan Hutton was the victim of a brutal tackle by Michele Polverino, who was only booked when he should have been sent off in the final minutes.

That he escaped a broken leg from what amounted to an assault was surprising.

Liechtenstein had six players booked and were content to time-waste as they clung on, but were punished for their bad sportsmanship in the final few seconds as Scotland mugged them for all three points.

Despite playing far from their best, the home fans celebrated the winner deep into stoppage time like they had qualified for the finals when McManus rose in a crowded area to head home Robson's corner.

Manager Levein was almost in tears as he raced on to the pitch to hug his players.

It was a close run thing and not particularly pleasing on the eye, but the win leaves Scotland top of Group I on four points. They are ahead of Lithuania on goal difference after two games.

Scotland visit the Czech Republic on October 8 before hosting group favourites and world champions Spain four days later in Glasgow.


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