Revealed: Crucial role Austin MacPhee played in Scotland's victory over the Irish

The penalty winner from Ryan Christie in the 2-1 success over the Republic of Ireland that bagged Scotland a second Nations League victory inside the week had a crucial input from coach Austin MacPhee, according to the Bournemouth attacker.

Christie didn’t appear to produce the cleanest hit for the conversion – “a few people have asked if I got the contact on it I wanted,” he confessed – but the middle of goal direction was certainly pre-planned. Thanks to Aston Villa set-piece coach MacPhee’s homework on how Southampton keeper Gavin Bazunu deals with such situations.

“I was planning to go down the middle, we did the work before the game in terms of looking at the opposition keeper,” he said, while admitting his watching dad Charlie Christie would ask why he “scuffed it”. “We knew he liked to dive early and I think it was a case of letting him dive and then putting it the other way. Thankfully it worked.

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“Day of the game so obviously we will find out the starting lineup and then we get told by Austin who is on penalties and then he will pull me aside and we will have a wee conversation. I will look at the keeper’s previous penalties and in this case he goes quite early.

Ryan Christie celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 Scotland against Republic of Ireland.
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“To be fair, Austin is brilliant with that. I have had a couple of penalties he has helped me with Scotland and I have scored all of them so he must be doing something right. If Austin has done the work you don’t second guess it, you follow the process and believe in it then it always seems to pay off.”

The goal marked Christie’s first for his country since the penalty shoot-out Euro 2020 play-off success away to Serbia in November 2020 that followed a 1-1 tied scoreline across a fraught 120 minutes. An equally exacting evening can be expected in Krakow in three days as Scotland require to avoid defeat against Ukraine finish top of their Nations League group. An outcome that would earn them promotion to the top level of the next edition of the competition as well as the fall-back of a guaranteed play-off slot for Euro 2024, whatever happens in the normal qualifying process next year. “It is all to play for on Tuesday night but we are high on confidence,” said Christie.

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