European Qualifier, Group D
Scotland 1-0 Republic of Ireland
Celtic Park, Glasgow
A Shaun Maloney stunner handed Scotland all three points as they defeated Republic of Ireland in front of a packed out Celtic Park tonight.
The Wigan Athletic man curled home a wonderfully worked goal with just over a quarter of an hour remaining as Gordon Strachan’s men earned their second Group D victory in a thrilling encounter.
The win means Scotland and Ireland, as well as Germany, are level on seven points after four games.
Poland piled the pressure on both the Scots and Irish earlier today when they swept Georgia aside 4-0 in Tbilisi to move top of the group on 10 points.
However, Strachan’s men produced a fine display to maintain their hopes of reaching France in 2016 and lead the group wide open.
Scott Brown captained Scotland at his club’s home ground whilst Ireland started Robbie Keane on the bench.
The match started frantically with the visitors winning a free-kick just outside the penalty area after just 20 seconds.
It was Scotland who created the first chance of the match after three minutes as Steven Fletcher headed over from a Maloney corner.
Scotland went even closer a minute later when Steven Naismith clipped Andrew Robertson’s low cross over the bar from close-range.
The impressive Maloney had an effort from the edge of the penalty area after good link-up play with Everton forward Naismith but his shot was well went.
Darron Gibson tried his luck with a half-volley from distance for Ireland but Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall made a comfortable low stop.
Scotland should have taken the lead just after the half hour mark.
Maloney fired in another excellent cross from wide right but Celtic’s Charlie Mulgrew could only head wide.
The midfielder was at the heart of all things good for Scotland and he produced another fine cross for Fletcher but the striker couldn’t flick the ball goalwards and Ireland were able to clear.
The Irish started the second half brightest and went close to scoring on 50 minutes.
Aiden McGeady showed some nice footwork on the right before firing in a vicious cross for Jon Walters but his effort was deflected just over.
The visitors went close again, this time through Shane Long but his header from six yards was well stopped by Marshall.
McGeady then produced an excellent volley but Marshall was on hand to beat the ball away.
Scotland had another chance to open the scoring on 65 minutes through substitute Chris Martin but he fired Naismith’s cross agonisingly wide as tension in the stadium increased.
Another good chance came Scotland’s way on 73 minutes when Mulgrew’s free-kick was deflected over the bar but the goal was to follow from the resulting corner.
Scotland worked a short corner and Brown’s neat flick fell for Maloney who curled the ball home for the hosts and send the Tartan Army into raptures.
Ireland pushed for a leveller late in the match and a Robbie Brady free-kick was headed over via the crossbar by Hanley in injury time but the Scots held on to claim a victory and all three points.
Scotland will end the year with a glamour friendly against England on Tuesday night at Celtic Park with Gibraltar up next in European Qualifying at Hampden in March.