Macedonia 1-2 Scotland

Highlights - Macedonia 1-2 Scotland

Shaun Maloney's sublime free-kick gave Scotland a late win against Macedonia, taking Gordon Strachan's side to fourth in their World Cup qualifying group.

Ikechi Anya had earlier marked his first international start by putting Scotland in front, shooting into the far corner from a tight angle.

However, the initially lacklustre hosts stirred and Jovan Kostovski equalised.

But Wigan midfielder Maloney curled a 25-yard set-piece into the top corner to give Scotland a second Group A win.

Macedonia keeper Tomislav Pacovski

The three points take Scotland above their opponents at the Philip II Arena and Wales, who lost 3-0 at home to Serbia.

Both the frequency and swiftness of Scotland's attacks on a visibly scarred and bumpy pitch at the Philip II Arena in Skopje will encourage the Tartan Army, who witnessed a far less threatening Macedonia team from the one which passed in triangles around their team at Hampden Park almost a year ago to the day.

Watford's Anya was constantly the outlet on the left-hand side and he regularly made light work of the attentions of home right-back Daniel Georgievski, despite having to deal with what sounded like ominous booing of the Watford winger by home fans.

He answered those perfectly by latching onto Barry Bannan's through ball and drilling across Macedonia goalkeeper Tome Pacovski to give his country the lead.

That only shook the hosts into action, though, and substitute goalkeeper Matt Gilks had to be at his best to keep out a string of efforts from the likes of Mirko Ivanovski and Adis Jahovic.

The pressure eventually told when Kostovski cleverly touched a cross from the left around the onrushing Gilks before calmly tapping into an empty net.

Before the match, an away point would have been welcomed by Scotland, who have struggled in this World Cup qualifying campaign.

However, when James McArthur was fouled on the edge of the opponents' box with two minutes of normal time remaining, Maloney seized his chance to execute a perfect free-kick from distance.

Anya's encouraging array of high and low deliveries into the box often failed to find a team-mate, but Steven Naismith, playing up front instead of Leigh Griffiths, was unlucky to head one of the 25-year-old's crosses over the bar in the first-half.

Everton's Naismith went on to create the best chance of the first half for captain Scott Brown, who ran into the box and watched his lifted effort get diverted away from danger by Pacovski in goal.

In comical manner, Pacovski stayed in the limelight straight after the break when referee Fredy Fautrel immediately halted the second half, just two seconds in, upon realising the Macedonian stopper had not yet returned to the pitch.

Cedomir Janevski's side looked far more menacing in the second period, with Gilks, on for David Marshall, making good diving saves on three or four occasions.

But Macedonia's late flurry was not enough to make a Scotland win seem unjust. Strachan's men can take heart from this and stride forward with greater confidence ahead of the final match of a dead campaign against Croatia at Hampden on 15 October.

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