Scotland are within touching distance of a place in next summer’s European Championship in the Netherlands after Jo Love’s 14th-minute goal gave them a 1-0 win over Belarus in Minsk last night, writes Alan Campbell.
The Scots are now virtually assured to be at least one of the six best runners-up in the eight groups, but that won’t be confirmed until the final round of games in September. In a less likely scenario they still have a chance of winning Group 1 from Iceland, who they meet in Reykjavik. Either way, the Scots are on the brink of qualifying for a major tournament for the first time.
Anna Signeul’s side badly needed to bounce back from the 4-0 defeat by Iceland on Friday, and thanks to Love’s early goal they did.
“It should maybe have been a bigger scoreline, but it was such an important game and everybody knew that,” Signeul said. “It was important for our self-confidence to show we can win these games. It was a great team effort and I thought Kim Little was fantastic. The best player for Belarus was their goalkeeper. She made some good saves in both halves.”
There was a willingness to get forward right from the outset and when Lisa Evans swung over a cross from the right and it was met with a diving header at the far post by Love. It was her third goal in less than 20 minutes against Belarus, the Glasgow City player having scored two near the end in the 7-0 home win at Fir Park in October.
Belarus had their only brief attacking spell when a free kick from Anastasia Scherbachenia narrowly missed the target and Yuliya Duben then went even closer.
Scotland’s failure to capitalise on chances was exemplified by the excellent cut-back from Evans which found no takers. Otherwise a shot from Little which forced a save from Natalia Voskobovich, and Hayley Lauder’s follow-up which went wide of the target, were as close as it got for the visitors.
Both sides made changes at the interval, with 17-year-old Erin Cuthbert coming on for Rachel Corsie to make her international debut.
The little midfielder settled in immediately and brought some directness to the Scots’ play. The visitors made Belarus keeper Voskobovich work harder in the second period, with her best saves coming from Jane Ross and Kirsty Smith – the latter denying the Hibs defender her first international goal.
In the home side’s only worthwhile attack, substitute Anastasia Schuppo fired in a shot which nearly sneaked in at the far post. It was a nervous moment, but only that.