Scotland manager Gordon Strachan last night claimed his team’s second-half display in the damaging 1-1 draw with Lithuania was “the best we have played in a long time” – despite his side requiring an 89th-minute equaliser from James McArthur to prevent them going down to a defeat that would have put a massive dent in their World Cup hopes.
Strachan admitted his team would “definitely” have to take something from their encounter in Slovakia on Tuesday night and said this “can be done” even if scraping a point at home to the team ranked 117th in the world looked like it might prove beyond them.
The Scotland manager balked at suggestions that his team could be considered lucky in cancelling out a 59th-minute goal so late on. “I don’t see the lucky bit. I thought we were unlucky,” he said, pointing to the “ball sliding past the post, guy heading off the line, penalty for handball near the end.”
“If you want to take that out, that’s fine, you could say we weren’t unlucky, we just weren’t finishing well,” he said tersely.
“In the second half we played well, really well, the best we have played in a long time,” he had claimed earlier. “We made more chances than we did in Malta. It was exciting stuff at times. The goal was terrific. I congratulate the lads for that.”
Strachan said: “It might be a good point in the end. We are second, that is where it leaves us.”
In a group he termed “strange”, Slovenia’s victory over Slovakia, who will now entertain Scotland without a point from their opening two games, Strachan read as having no bearing on the assignment for his side in midweek.
“[Slovakia’s defeat] Doesn’t change much for us, don’t know how they will feel about it. We had a team in mind. We will shake it up, that’s for sure. We had some great performances, some terrific performances, and I thought Chris Martin was outstanding in the way he brought people into play. Some would want to play a wee bit better too.”
Opposing manager Edgar Jankauskas said it would be “a miracle” if his side finished above Scotland in Group F even after coming so close to victory at Hampden. “I cannot be unhappy [losing the goal at the end] because I know how much the game cost to my team [physically]. It was a game against a very strong Scottish side so we are proud of our display and I am proud of my team.”