Scotland hand McLeish win on return as manager

Scotland hand McLeish win on return as manager
Albania's Thomas Strakosha, Berat Djimsiti and Rey Manaj in action during the Nations League.

Glasgow - Hearts forward Naismith scores the winner against Albania in Nations League


Published: Tue 11 Sep 2018, 7:55 PM

Last updated: Tue 11 Sep 2018, 10:06 PM

Steven Naismith was on target as Scotland marked Alex McLeish's first competitive match since coming back for a second spell as manager by beating Albania 2-0 at a sodden Hampden on Monday.
The Hearts forward Naismith, 31, had an eventful night, forcing Berat Xhimshiti into scoring the own goal that put Scotland ahead just after half-time before he scored the second goal that clinched victory.
After losing five of their last six games - all friendlies - and scoring only once in that time, Scotland needed this as they begin their latest quest to qualify for a first major tournament since 1998.
This was their first game in the new Uefa Nations League, a competition which offers the carrot of a possible qualifying spot for Euro 2020.
After this result, they are level with Albania on three points in Group 1 of the third-tier League C.
"This was always the focus. People were talking about win ratios but I'm not worried about that. It's about building a team and we've had the very hardest tests possible," McLeish told Sky Sports.
"I'm really proud of the victory tonight because we were under pressure, everybody said we must win, and we did."
Back in the job after a previous spell in 2007, McLeish faces a huge challenge reviving his side's fortunes, and persuading long-suffering supporters to attend games again.
Just as for Friday's 4-0 thumping by Belgium, Hampden - which will host four matches at Euro 2020 - was sparsely populated for this game on a dreary Glasgow evening.
Naismith produced a remarkable miss midway through the first half when he headed against the post from just two yards out after Charlie Mulgrew had nodded down John McGinn's free-kick.
The same player then had the ball in the net just before the interval, diverting Callum McGregor's effort past Thomas Strakosha, but he was just offside and the flag came up.
With Southampton's Stuart Armstrong on at the interval, Scotland stepped things up after the break and took the lead within two minutes of the restart.
Captain Andy Robertson's cross was headed towards goal by Naismith at the back post, and the unfortunate Xhimshiti helped the ball in.
Albania coach Christian Panucci scored a stoppage-time winner for Italy at Hampden to knock McLeish's Scotland out of Euro 2008 qualifying.
His side, who beat Israel 1-0 in their first group game, had chances to equalise, notably when Bekim Balaj forced Allan McGregor into a fine save.
But Scotland doubled their lead on 68 minutes as Strakosha came for a corner and missed it, allowing Naismith to head into an empty net.
Spirits have been lifted, but a bigger test surely awaits Scotland in Israel next month.

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