Scotland's 'heavyweight' win over Ireland delights Strachan

Charlie Mulgrew celebrates Scotland's victory
Charlie Mulgrew had missed Scotland's previous two qualifiers

Scotland boss Gordon Strachan said his side's 1-0 Euro 2016 qualifying victory over the Republic of Ireland was "like a heavyweight boxing match" after Shaun Maloney got the winner at Celtic Park.

The win took them level with the Irish, three points behind leaders Poland.

"As a spectacle of pure football, it wasn't that great," he said. "But, as two groups of players not wanting to give an inch, it was mesmerising.

"There wasn't much football as such, but any chance they had they did that."

But the Scotland boss again played down suggestions that it had been a must-win game for his side, who are also level with Germany in Group D with seven points from four games.

A mesmerising spectacle - Strachan

"I think I said earlier in the week there was one goal deciding all the games up until tonight outwith Gibraltar," he said. "It has happened again."

Asked whether he would now make changes for Tuesday's friendly against England, Strachan said: "I think so, because they put so much into that game.

"That was like one of those big heavyweight boxing matches.

"We've played in football games and believed in that and we've played in a more physical duel tonight and dealt with that as well."

Strachan credited coach Stuart McCall with the inspiration for Maloney's decisive goal.

"We are just fortunate Stuart came away with that set-play," he said. "It was a Stuart McCall goal."

Strachan said the move - a short corner, with Maloney playing the ball into the feet of Scott Brown, before scoring with a curled finish from the back-heeled return pass - was a variation of a set-piece used by McCall at Motherwell before he resigned from the Scottish Premiership club earlier this month.

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan and his assistant Stuart McCall
Gordon Strachan credited his assistant Stuart McCall for Scotland's winner

"We can put on a set play, but you have to be able to finish and that's down to ability," he added in praise of Wigan Athletic midfielder Maloney's 75th-minute winner.

He added that he was delighted at the way Maloney and diminutive figures such as Steven Naismith and Ikechi Anya battled against the Irish.

"I have to say that our smaller guys, considering the height and power they were playing against, were very brave," he said.

"There wasn't much football as such, but any chance they had to do that they did. They were brave on and off the ball, the three behind the main strikers."

And he singled out midfielder Charlie Mulgrew for particular praise.

Celtic man Mulgrew missed Scotland's previous two games through suspension and injury but returned in place of James Morrison, sidelined by illness.

"Charlie was absolutely immense," said the manager. "Normally, you would come in and say what a game Scott Brown had, but Charlie's actually taken the mantle tonight and ably backed up by the people round about him. He was the best man on the pitch."

Fans wave a Scotland and Ireland combined scarf before kick-off
There were many split loyalties at Celtic Park ahead of kick-off
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill greets Scotland counterpart Gordon Strachan
Ireland's Martin O'Neill and Scotland counterpart Gordon Strachan are both former Celtic managers
Steven Fletcher looks frustrated after missing a chance for Scotland
Steven Fletcher missed a couple of chances for Scotland before going off injured
Shaun Maloney's shot evades the reach of Irish goalkeeper David Forde
Shaun Maloney's shot evaded the reach of Irish goalkeeper David Forde

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