A late Sean Maloney effort secured the three points in the 1-0 victory over Ireland.
Ireland started the brightest with Jonathan Walters and Darren Gibson coming close before the home side asserted their dominance with Charlie Mulgrew and Steven Whittaker both close to opening the scoring. Gordon Strachan’s side continued their dominance in the second half with Chris Martin having chances before Maloney secured the win in this crucial Euro 2016 qualifier with 15 minutes left to play.
It was an open affair form the kick off when Jonathan Walters tested David Marshall after two minutes but it was easy to gather for the keeper. Darren Gibson lined up a sweet volley after a headed clearance but it was again easy for Marshall to collect.
Scotland could have counted themselves lucky that they weren’t down to ten men after 11 minutes when Shane Long managed to get the better of Grant Hanley with the defender bringing the striker down, at a second glance it could be considered that he denied Long a goal scoring opportunity but Hanley was lucky to get away with the yellow.
Scotland began to get a foothold in the game but the Irish defence proved difficult to break down with John O’Shea getting ahead of Steven Naismith to an Ikechi Anya pullback, Sean Maloney curled in another good ball into the box finding Mulgrew but he put it wide of the post. Whittaker made some space for himself to cut in from the wing but his shot was a weak one and one that David Forde gathered with relative ease.
Ireland looked promising at the beginning of the second half when a defensive header prevented Walters getting on the end of an Aiden McGeady ball, it was the Stoke striker that was causing trouble again minutes later when his header got a late touch from Long but Marshall was unfazed and collected the ball. Marshall did very well to keep the scores level when McGeady’s volley bounced in front of him but he did well to get a hand to force it wide.
Gordon Strachan decided to bring on Derby striker Chris Martin to get the crucial opener and the striker came so close in quick succession, Martin looked to steer his header goal wards but was well off target and he was then found by Naismith who did well to get into the area but he curled it just wide of the post. Walters came close to putting his side behind in the 73rd minute when his attempted clearance from the free kick rattled off the bar.
Scotland finally took the lead a minute later, a well worked corner came to Maloney who played it off to Scott Brown who then back heeled brilliantly back into the path of Maloney and the midfielder curled it beautifully into the far corner sending Celtic Park into hysteria.
Ireland had scored late goals against Georgia and Germany in their last two qualifiers and Martin O’Neill’s side came ever close to doing it once again, substitute Robbie Brady curled a brilliant ball into the area coming off the head of the Hanley which came back off the crossbar but Scotland managed to hold on for the victory.
Ireland were poor on the day with very few clear-cut chances but have shown in their previous games that they can be a good side and a hope for O’Neill is that this will be a blip in their road to reach France in 2016.
Scotland started the weaker of the two sides but showed the quality they have gained under Strachan and got the victory they deserved, England are the next opponents that will come to Celtic Park and if Scotland can perform like they did tonight they could cause Roy Hodgson’s squad some problems on Tuesday.
Written by @Danialkennedy95