Scotland beat Malta to keep World Cup hopes alive

Scotland have moved to within a point of the play-off place in Group F of the World Cup qualifiers.

Goals from Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths secured the victory for Scotland, who closed the gap on Slovakia thanks to their 2-1 loss to England.

Scotland started the match strongly with Stuart Armstrong, Griffiths and James McArthur all getting early shots on goal.

The Scotland pressure came off in the ninth minute when Berra rose highest to head in Griffiths’ corner.

Armstrong could have doubled the lead four minutes later but his shot hit the side netting from the left side of the area.

The atmosphere at Hampden fell flat after news of a Slovakia goal sifted through from Wembley. A Slovakia win would end Scotland’s hopes of qualification regardless of the result at Hampden.

Scotland carried on regardless though and Kieran Tierney tested Andrew Hogg from distance before Matt Phillips was put through on goal only to be blown up for a foul in the build-up.

Eric Dier’s equaliser at Wembley galvanised the Scotland crowd once again and Phillips responded just before half time when he forced Hogg into a fantastic save with a dipping long-range shot.

Griffiths doubled Scotland’s lead three minutes after the restart, finishing off an excellent team move. Andrew Robertson sent a ball across the box which substitute James Morrison directed onto the post. Griffiths was on hand though to complete the move.

Forrest then let fly but Hogg’s diving save kept the ball out of the bottom corner.

More news came through from Wembley – a Marcus Rashford goal meant Scotland saw just a point behind Slovakia.

Griffiths last contribution came with 23 minutes remaining when he went in one-on-one but a tame shot was gathered by Hogg.

Malta did have a rare chance to pull a goal back when Joseph Zerafa shot was parried into the path of Alfred Effiong, but the striker’s follow-up was blocked by Grant Hanley and the Celtic goalkeeper was able to gather.

Scotland continued to probe in the final stages but the Maltese defence held firm. Armstrong was stopped by a tackle in the area while substitute Chris Martin had little luck trying to spearhead Scottish attacks.

The result means Scotland remain in fourth but they have crucially clawed two points back from second-placed Slovakia.

Cover Photo: Flag of Scotland by Christoph Strassler used under license by CC BY-SA 2.0.

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