Scotland vs Republic of Ireland. UEFA Nations League Group B1.
Match report as Scotland beat Republic of Ireland 2-1 to ensure they need just a point against Ukraine on Tuesday to be sure of promotion to the Nations League's top tier; Goals from Ryan Christie and Jack Hendery helped Scotland bounce back after John Egan's opener
Monday 26 September 2022 11:52, UK
Ryan Christie's late penalty returned Scotland to the top of their Nations League group as they came from behind to beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 at Hampden Park.
Jack Hendry headed in Christie's floated delivery (49) to equalise for Scotland after John Egan's drilled opener following a corner (18), before Christie sealed the win from the spot after a handball by Alan Browne (82).
Scotland's third consecutive win ensures they need just a point in Tuesday's Group B1 decider against Ukraine in Poland to secure promotion to the Nations League's top tier and the guarantee of a Euro 2024 play-off spot.
They could, though, be short on full-backs for that game after seeing Kieran Tierney and Aaron Hickey forced off with injury at Hampden on Saturday night, with Andy Robertson and Nathan Patterson already unavailable.
Republic of Ireland are two points clear of bottom spot, knowing a point against Armenia on Tuesday at the Aviva Stadium would ensure they remain in the second tier of the Nations League.
Hampden was packed but the Tartan Army's optimism drained in the first half.
In the 11th minute of a scrappy start to the game, Ireland attacker Troy Parrot raced through to put the ball in the net despite a despairing attempt by keeper Craig Gordon and the Scots' defence, but the offside flag was belatedly raised.
However, the Irish fans did have something to cheer when Scotland failed to properly clear a James McClean corner and Egan swivelled and fired low past Gordon from eight yards.
Scotland were finding it hard to get going.
Stand-in skipper John McGinn, winning his 50th cap, had two shots on goal but on both occasions failed to connect properly and the ball skipped well wide.
Five minutes from the break there was disruption for Scotland when left-back Kieran Tierney went off injured - it looked like a head knock after a clash with Parrott at a corner - and he was replaced by Greg Taylor.
The Tartan Army got the start to the second half they wanted when Christie went past Doherty with ease down the left and crossed for Hendry to head in from 10 yards.
The mood inside the stadium changed but as Scotland pressed hard to get in front they almost got caught.
Obafemi raced away on the break from the edge of the Ireland box and played in Parrot who had only Gordon to beat but the Hearts keeper stuck a leg out and blocked for a corner, which came to nothing
Anthony Ralston and Ryan Fraser then came on for injured Hickey and Stuart Armstrong with Obafemi making way for Chiedozie Ogbene, who had the ball kicked straight at him by Gordon, the keeper happy to see it land back in his arms.
At the other end, Bazunu tipped Fraser's powerful drive over the bar for a corner which Ireland repelled but only just.
Ireland boss Stephen Kenny made three changes in the 75th minute with Doherty, Parrot and Jayson Molumby making way for Seamus Coleman, Callum Robinson and Alan Browne.
Then came the penalty drama.
Referee Sandro Scharer pointed to the spot when Scott McTominay's header from a McGinn corner appeared to hit the arm of Browne.
After a VAR check the penalty stood and Christie sent Bazunu the wrong way with his spot-kick and the home fans rejoiced at the turnaround, although it was a tetchy and nervy ending where McTominay picked up a booking in a melee which rules him out of Tuesday's game with Ukraine.
Scotland match-winner Christie told Premier Sports:
"Yeah, that's a big win. We came into the game desperate to win for a number of reasons.
"We wanted to come away from this camp with three wins, we obviously started on Wednesday night with one. I think the bigger factor was what happened in the summer in Dublin, we felt we let ourselves down and the fans down over there and we wanted to put that right, and thankfully we did.
"It was a disappointing summer, we all knew that and felt that when we came away from it, but that's why we wanted to kind of flip it on its head this camp, try and pick up some positive results. Two from two, we can't really ask more from that and we'll go again Tuesday.
"Thankfully the gaffer has kept me on penalties the last few games and we haven't seemed to get one. I was kind of waiting for the keeper to dive out of the way almost. Thankfully it goes in and thankfully we get the win."
Republic of Ireland defender Egan told Premier Sports:
"We're very disappointed. I think we were brilliant in the first half, took the lead, didn't weather the storm early on.
"They get a goal second half, but I thought we responded well, haven't seen the penalty back but it's a tough one to take.
"We had our chances. It's a game we feel like we could have won as well and it's disappointing not to get anything from it.
"I think first half we came out with the shots well, our front two were causing carnage up top and we were creating chances. We took the lead, luckily for myself I got a goal and we put ourselves in a great position.
"But we've got to be able to start the second half well and not give away a cheap goal that lets them back into the game."
Scotland face Ukraine in an away fixture which will be played on Tuesday in Krakow, Poland due to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The 7.45pm kick-off at the 15,000-capacity Marshal Jozef Pilsudski Stadium is Scotland's final Nations League game of their Group B4 campaign.
The Republic of Ireland's last Nations League game is also on Tuesday in a 7.45pm kick-off against Armenia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.