GLASGOW (AFP) – Scotland boosted their European Championship qualification chances as Shaun Maloney’s superb strike handed them a 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in Group D on Friday.
The Scots dominated a highly-charged first half at Celtic Park with Steven Fletcher and Charlie Mulgrew both off target with headers before Fletcher missed a golden chance to convert a Maloney cross from close range.
However, Gordon Strachan’s side were fortunate not to have Grant Hanley sent off in the 12th minute as he brought down Shane Long who looked to be bearing down on goal.
Ireland improved after the break and Scotland ‘keeper David Marshall produced a fine save to deny Aiden McGeady.
Substitute Chris Martin was close for Scotland and Jon Walters sent a header off his own bar before Maloney’s fantastic curling effort fired the hosts in front in the 75th minute.
Hanley had the home fans hearts’ in their mouths when his backwards header nicked the Scotland bar in stoppage time but Scotland held on to end Ireland’s 12-match unbeaten run in European qualifiers.
The win hauls Scotland level with Ireland and Germany on seven points, just three points behind group leaders Poland.
Scotland made two changes to the side that drew in Poland as Russell Martin and Andrew Robertson came in to replace Gordon Greer and the injured Alan Hutton.
There was no place for record goalscorer Robbie Keane as Southampton striker Shane Long was handed the job of leading the line for Ireland.
Scotland enjoyed the better start but were fortunate in the 12th minute, however, when Hanley was relieved only to pick up a yellow card for bringing down Long with the Blackburn defender appearing to be the last man.