World Cup qualifying: Scotland secures last-minute win over Slovakia

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Scotland defeated Slovakia 1-0 in a crucial World Cup qualifying match on Thursday.

Martin Skrtel gave up an own goal in the 89th minute to put Scotland ahead.

While Scotland’s qualifying campaign got off to a dire start, now they could finish second in Group F if they defeat Slovenia on Sunday. That could make them eligible for the second-place playoffs.

According to The Guardian’s match report, Scotland played well during the whole match. First-half efforts by the likes of Christophe Berra had to be parried away by Slovakia keeper Martin Dubravka.

Slovakia were reduced to 10 men when Robert Mak was sent off in the 23rd minute after receiving a second yellow for simulation. Mak’s loss crippled Slovakia’s creativity in midfield.

Scotland kept up the pressure in Slovakia’s half in the closing moments. Leigh Griffiths and Chris Martin each almost put Scotland ahead. Both were denied by the crossbar.

Martin’s aggressive play led to the own goal. Skrtel’s attempted clearance of Ikechi Anya’s cross went awry in part because of Martin’s pressure.

Manager Gordon Strachan, whose job had been in jeopardy earlier in the campaign, said, “We have been building up to a performance like that. They deserve a performance and result like that. How many times have we had bad luck written all over it? It wasn’t about luck tonight, it was a great goalkeeper, the crossbar and eventually getting one in.”

The result was extremely disappointing for Slovakia, who easily defeated Scotland at home earlier in the qualifying campaign. A win would have all but guaranteed them a berth in the playoff.

The crowd at Hampden Park celebrated as though World Cup qualification was already certain. However, given Scotland’s failures in past qualifying campaigns, they can be forgiven for their excess.

Elsewhere in Group F, England beat Slovenia 1-0 and Lithuania played to a 1-1 draw with Malta.

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