Manager revels in good night’s work
ALEX McLeish insisted he didn’t have a failure in his team after the Scotland head coach enjoyed a deserved and much- needed 4- 0 win in Albania.
After nine call-offs for a variety of reasons, the national team are now 90 minutes away from a play-off for the 2020 European championships.
A win for Scotland by any scoreline against Israel at Hampden Park on Tuesday night will see them finish top of their Nations League group with nine points.
Scotland went into this game with a catalogue of injury absences and facing the possibility of finishing bottom, but they easily put Albania to the sword.
Ryan Fraser and James Forrest, twice, broke their scoring ducks for Scotland, while the recalled Steven Fletcher scored a penalty to take his tally for the national side to 10.
Scotland were helped by Albania captain Mergim Mavraj who was sent off midway through the first half headbutting Ryan Christie.
A delighted McLeish said: “I had a good feeling about it and I felt if the players brought their performance level to the game then it would be positive and that’s how it turned out. We wanted to try and be as aggressive as we could rather than side passes. Game management. That was very evident in the second half.
“It was an exceptional performance from our lads. It looked like a familiarity and it was hard to single anyone out. And now we look ahead to Tuesday.”
Celtic’s Forrest scored twice and was man of the match. He is a certainty to start against Israel.
McLeish said: “James has been there or thereabouts in the last couple of years for Scotland. He’s won a lot of caps. He’s been in great scoring form for his club and he continued that, which was marvellous to see.
“He had to do a lot of tracking back to help Callum Paterson in the first half, but in the second he was fantastic going forward. And Ryan Fraser is a player we haven’t had a few times. But he started off so well and took his goal superbly.
Forrest admitted he’s been waiting impatiently for his first Scotland goals, and so the Celtic man was delighted to bag two in his side’s win last night.
“I’m buzzing,” admitted the Celtic man. “I’ve had a few chances to score before, but to score two on my 25th cap, I’m delighted and it takes a lot of confidence into Tuesday. You always have to believe in your ability.”
Fraser too was delighted to score his first goal for Scotland. He said: “People said it was going to be an easy win, but Albania beat Israel. We came here with a lot of questions to answer and we did well. I’ve called off myself, it’s never nice. You always want to play for your country. Scoring four goals away from home is never easy.”
After scoring on his first appearance for Scotland in 13 months, Steven Fletcher has targeted a win over Israel and a Euro 2020 play-off place.
“Sometimes you just need that one result,” he said. “It can change everything when you get a win like that. We have a lot of confidence going into Tuesday.
“I was happy with my performance. It was tough getting up to the tempo, but I enjoyed it and I would love to be involved with the young lads again on Tuesday.”