11 October 2014 19:58
Scotland got their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign up and running with a narrow but deserved 1-0 win over Group D rivals Georgia at Ibrox.
Gordon Strachan’s men came into the game on the back of a spirited 2-1 defeat to world champions Germany and Scotland again showed glimpses of real quality on Saturday.
They may have benefitted from a touch of fortune when they took the lead 28 minutes in, as Akaki Khubutia inadvertently diverted the ball into his own net following Shaun Maloney’s strike.
However, it was no more than the home side deserved after a strong start and, while they failed to add to their advantage, Strachan’s side were on top for long spells during the remainder of the game.
The defeat to Germany is now Scotland’s only loss in eight games, while Khubutia’s own goal extended Georgia’s winless streak on the road to 20 competitive fixtures.
Strachan’s only complaint is likely to be his side’s lack of cutting edge up front – although there was a huge late let-off for the Scots when substitute Irakli Dzaria blasted wide when presented with a golden opportunity to equalise.
In a lively opening from both sides, it was Scotland who showed most signs of promise, although initially without threatening the Georgian goal.
The return of captain Scott Brown from injury added a degree of tenacity to their midfield and, with Scotland looking solid defensively, the likes of Maloney and Ikechi Anya impressed early on.
Steven Fletcher almost connected with full-back Andrew Robertson’s delivery from the left after 23 minutes before the hosts’ dominance paid off, albeit with a bit of luck.
When Giorgi Loria palmed away Maloney’s fizzed effort from outside the area, the ball struck defender Khubutia on the back of the leg and found its way over the line.
The visitors rallied initially after going behind – Solomon Kverkvelia heading wide from a corner – but Brown almost made it 2-0 when his side-footed effort took a deflection and veered wide.
Strachan’s men were unable to extend their lead before the break but continued to dominate possession early in the second half, with the livewire Anya causing problems down both wings.
However, chances continued to be few and far between, with Temuri Ketsbaia’s side happy to soak up Scottish pressure and try to hit their opponents on the counter-attack.
Their tactic almost paid off, too, when – after Steven Naismith had wastefully dragged Fletcher’s backheel wide – Dzaria almost made Scotland pay for their profligacy.
After a quick break, Nikoloz Gelashvili laid the ball off to the midfielder, but he fired his effort off target from the edge of the area.