Scotland 1-0 Slovakia: Late Martin Skrtel own goal hands Scotland advantage for World Cup play-offs
By Michael Hincks
Last Updated: 07/10/17 8:33am
Martin Skrtel's late own goal ensured Scotland edged past 10-man Slovakia 1-0 at Hampden Park to keep them on course for a place in the World Cup qualifying play-offs.
On a night where England confirmed top spot in Group F, Scotland moved up to second place in the table - and Gordon Strachan's side know a victory in Slovenia on Sunday is likely to be enough to secure a berth in November's play-offs.
Two quickfire yellow cards for Robert Mak saw Scotland have a man advantage from the 23rd minute, with the Slovakia midfielder sent off for simulation in the penalty area just five minutes after his first booking.
Scotland twice hit the bar through Chris Martin and Leigh Griffiths after the break, but at the death Skrtel turned the ball into his own net from Ikechi Anya's cross.
Scotland: Gordon (6), Tierney (7), Mulgrew (6), Berra (7), Robertson (7), D. Fletcher (6), Morrison (6), Bannan (6), Forrest (6), Phillips (6), Griffiths (7)
Subs: Martin (7), McArthur (6), Anya (7)
Slovakia: Dubravka (9), Pekarik (7), Skrtel (8), Durica (6), Gregus (6), Nemec (6), Hubocan (6), Hamsik (7), Kucka (6), Mak (4), Lobotka (7)
Subs: Duda (5), Weiss (5), Gyomber (6)
Man of the match: Martin Dubravka
The Scots were on top even before Mak's red card, and it took a superb stop from Martin Dubravka to deny Christophe Berra from heading Scotland into the lead after 20 minutes.
That chance for Berra fell between Mak's two yellows. The Manchester City Academy graduate picked up his first booking in the 18th minute for a challenge on James Forrest and he was given his marching orders just five minutes later after taking a tumble with Scotland 'keeper Craig Gordon in the vicinity.
Scotland looked to make their man-advantage count, but, apart from a curling Griffiths attempt which was stopped by Dubravka, the hosts struggled to create clear-cut chances before the interval.
Gordon Strachan opted for Barry Bannan in midfield, with Darren Fletcher coming in to captain the side. James Morrison also started for the hosts.
The second half saw Slovakia start on the front foot, but they failed to create any telling chances as Scotland hit back strongly.
Substitute Martin saw his effort from 25 yards out rattle the bar, before Griffiths also struck the woodwork with a long-range free-kick.
Moments later, James Morrison was denied by Dubravka from point-blank range, and it was starting to look like it would not be Scotland's night.
Cue a huge stroke of good luck. Griffiths played in Anya, whose cross was bundled into the goal by a sliding Skrtel, who was under pressure from Martin.
Man of the match - Martin Dubravka
Skrtel put in a near-perfect performance until his late own goal, but it was Dubravka who thwarted Scotland time and time again.
The Slovakia goalkeeper pulled off a number of superb stops to crank up the pressure on Scotland, and it was telling that he was only beaten by an unfortunate mishap.
Manager reaction - Gordon Strachan
"I wasn't too bad to be honest with you. I genuinely thought we were going to score a goal. I did.
"It would have been a huge disappointment if we didn't. That was some performance, I know there was 10 men there and it shook us for a bit, but that's because you do all your homework to face 11.
"We got a bit more time on the ball, they can keep the ball when they get it back, but there's no doubt about the man of the match, for them - the goalkeeper. He was magnificent. And the crossbar was good as well."
Scotland head to Slovenia on Sunday, where victory should send the team into November's play-offs. Slovakia, meanwhile, will host Malta and they will hope to ease past the minnows and pile the pressure on the Scots.
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