Scotland U21 3 - 0 Luxembourg U21: Perseverance pays dividends in second half
SCOTLAND Under-21s kept their European qualifying hopes alive with three second-half goals at St Mirren Park.
Scorers: Scotland - Armstrong 63, Griffiths 68, Watt 83 pen
Billy Stark’s side struggled to break down a stubborn Luxembourg side in the first half but stepped up the tempo after the break and Stuart Armstrong and Leigh Griffiths netted within five minutes of each other.
Substitute Tony Watt scored a late penalty and Scotland now travel to Austria looking for the 16-point total they are expected to need for a play-off spot. The victory leaves unbeaten Scotland three points behind Group 10 leaders Holland and four clear in second place.
Scotland need Austria to beat the Netherlands in Tilburg tomorrow night in order to have any chance of topping the group, although they are seven goals worse off than the Dutch.
Anything but an Austria win would guarantee Scotland second place but Stark believes they still need to win on Monday to be one of the four best runners-up that qualify for the play-offs.
Stark has seen James Forrest and Jordan Rhodes, scorer of eight goals in the previous eight games, promoted to the senior squad since the campaign began and another of his creative forces, Dundee United winger Gary Mackay-Steven, was missing through injury. That prompted a change from the usual lone striker formation to a 4-4-2 and Scotland struggled to carve open the visitors in the first half.
Luxembourg pressed the ball aggressively from the start but captain Paul Hanlon created an early chance when his pass found Johnny Russell in the left channel, but the Dundee United striker’s shot from a tight angle was pushed wide. Luxembourg were shutting out their hosts and they almost took the lead in the 25th minute. Tottenham goalkeeper Jordan Archer, making his first start amid injuries to Mark Ridgers and Grant Adam, dived full length to push wide Billy Bernard’s header following a free-kick from the right.
Scotland were struggling to get the ball into the box, though Russell saw a long-range effort comfortably held before Danny Wilson curled over after a corner was half-cleared. Stark’s team managed to push men forward in the closing stages of the half but were still lacking a cutting edge.
Hanlon missed a great chance four minutes after the break when he blazed over from close range after a Griffiths free-kick had been parried by goalkeeper Philippe Hahm.
Allan had won the free-kick with a forward burst and the West Brom midfielder looked increasingly like Scotland’s best chance of creating a breakthrough. More skill from Allan created space for Russell on the left and he crossed for Griffiths, but the forward went for the spectacular scissors kick when a header might have been on and he failed to connect properly.
Scotland U21: Archer, Jack, Wilson, Perry (McLean 85), Hanlon, Armstrong, Kelly (Pawlett 64), Allan,McCabe, Russell, Griffiths (Watt 78). Subs not used: Bain, Toshney, Shinnie, Wylde.
Luxembourg U21: Hahm, Christophe De Sousa, Bernard, Ramdedovic, Hess (Veiga 81),Skrijelj (Dragovic 71), Martino, Laterza, Raphael De Sousa, Alunni (Correia 58), Turpel. Subs not used: Menster, Holtz.Siebenaler, Texeira.
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