Scotland 1-0 Slovenia: Chris Martin's late winner keeps World Cup dreams alive
By Lewis Jones
Last Updated: 27/03/17 8:44am
Scotland remain alive in the race for World Cup qualification after Chris Martin’s late winner beat Slovenia 1-0 at Hampden Park on Sunday.
Gordon Strachan was under huge pressure coming into this crunch tie after taking just four points from the first four games in Group F but substitute Martin (89) grabbed the three points Scotland richly deserved for a performance full of fight and quality.
In front of just over 20,000 at Hampden Park, Strachan's team hit the woodwork twice and had eight shots on target against Slovenia, who had held England to a 0-0 draw earlier in the campaign.
The result moves Scotland into fourth place, just two points behind Slovenia, who occupy second spot.
Strachan handed Stuart Armstrong his Scotland debut for the crucial qualifier. The 24-year-old was one of six Celtic players in the side, which had Parkhead left-back Kieran Tierney at right-back and Leigh Griffiths leading the line.
Scotland answered their manager's call for a big performance by starting with great intensity and maintained it for the first half. All that was missing was a goal.
Russell Martin forced Jan Oblak into a flying save from a powerful header with 90 seconds gone before having an effort from another Robert Snodgrass corner that did beat the Slovenia goalkeeper ruled out on seven minutes.
James Morrison rifled a half-volley from 22 yards inches wide on 29 minutes as Scotland continued to dominate the chances.
Griffiths has failed to score in nine previous caps and somehow he failed to break his duck in an extraordinary period 10 minutes before half-time. First, he managed to smack the crossbar from just six yards out after a wonderful pick-out by Snodgrass before striking the inside of the post 60 seconds later with a clever first-time effort from the edge of the area.
The missed chances looked to have taken its toll in the second period as the hosts lost their attacking spark and started to snatch at their final balls.
Strachan's fresh legs from the bench helped to lift his side and Ikechi Anya, who replaced Snodgrass, missed a glorious opportunity on 76 minutes when he curled an effort from 15 yards straight at Oblak.
Time looked to be running out, until Armstrong found Martin, who was booed by some sections of the crowd when he was brought on, and he kept his composure to plant an effort into the far corner.
Scotland head into their next game against England in June with renewed hope.