UEFA Nations League - Group C1
ScotlandScotland2AlbaniaAlbania0

Uefa Nations League: Scotland beat Albania 2-0 in group opener

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland at Hampden
Berat Djimsiti scores an own goal to give Scotland the lead against Albania
Berat Djimsiti diverted Steven Naismith's header past his own goalkeeper

Steven Naismith's persistence paid off as Scotland opened their Nations League campaign with a morale-boosting win against Albania.

Naismith's header went in off Berat Djimsiti and the Hearts forward nodded the Scots' second after a dreadful piece of goalkeeping at a corner.

His second-half showing made up for a glaring first-half miss and having a goal chalked off for offside as the home side dominated at a sodden Hampden that was less than half full.

And it was a much more assured performance from Alex McLeish's side with no repeat of the errors that were so ruthlessly punished by Belgium in Friday's 4-0 friendly defeat.

Stephen O'Donnell in particular excelled at right wing-back after being a surprise inclusion.

The returning Allan McGregor made a crucial save to deny Bekim Balaj at 1-0, the striker also volleying over as Albania failed to emulate their opening group win against Israel.

Pressure pays off for persistent Scots

In order to quell the rising tide of doubt surrounding McLeish, this was a game that Scotland simply had to win, a first competitive outing for the manager in his second stint at Hampden and the kind of convincing, at times flamboyant, victory that gives him something to build on.

Scotland had an array of chances and bright moments before they finally cracked the Albanians.

Johnny Russell, in from the start, had a fresh-air kick when he should have scored, but that was nothing when compared to the one Naismith missed later on. Charlie Mulgrew headed a John McGinn free-kick to the back post and from three yards Naismith somehow contrived to hit the post.

There were other chances, some slick football and, eventually, a goal to reflect their dominance when Naismith's header was deflected into his own net by Djimsiti.

One goal was the least Scotland deserved, but they were fortunate it stayed that way when Balaj had two clear-cut chances to equalise and fluffed the pair of them.

McLeish's team took back control after that. Naismith made it two with a header when keeper Thomas Strakosha was caught in no man's land and that was the assurance goal that guaranteed Scotland's Nations League campaign got off to a winning, and stylish, beginning.

O'Donnell stakes his claim

Stephen O'Donnell playing for Scotland against Albania
Stephen O'Donnell made his Scotland debut this summer

This was a triumph for McLeish, a manager who was in serious need of one after four defeats without scoring in five games.

His selection raised eyebrows in the preamble, but McLeish got it right against a team that, on paper, looked exactly the type of visiting side that tends to get considerable joy at Hampden.

McLeish's biggest call was also his best call. In giving a competitive debut to O'Donnell, the 26-year-old darling of Rugby Park, he gave the full-back-cum-wing-back the opportunity to show his stuff and show his stuff O'Donnell did.

O'Donnell was terrific in nearly everything he did in defence and attack. Particularly in attack. The Killie man announced himself as a serious contender for a permanent spot in McLeish's team.

He brought energy and bite and cleverness and presence. O'Donnell was at the heart of this vibrant Scotland performance on a night that lifted the dark clouds that had gathered above the head of the national team.

Even if only a shade over 17,000 turned up at Hampden - the way things have gone in recent years then that was hardly a shock - this was more like it.

Two goals, three easy points, some stand-up performers and a competitive debut for Scott McTominay, thereby confirming him as a Scotland player. This was the kick-start that McLeish had been waiting for.

What's next?

Both sides return to Nations League duty away to Israel next month. The Scots visit Haifa on 11 October and Albania travel to Beersheba three days later, when Scotland host Portugal in a friendly.

Graphic of Scotland's group in the Nations League

Line-ups

Scotland

Formation 3-5-2

  • 1McGregor
  • 4SouttarBooked at 16mins
  • 5Mulgrew
  • 6Tierney
  • 2O'Donnell
  • 7McGinn
  • 8McDonaldBooked at 18minsSubstituted forArmstrongat 45'minutes
  • 10McGregorSubstituted forMcTominayat 79'minutes
  • 3Robertson
  • 11RussellSubstituted forGriffithsat 70'minutes
  • 9Naismith

Substitutes

  • 12Gordon
  • 13Paterson
  • 14Griffiths
  • 15Forrest
  • 16Snodgrass
  • 17Armstrong
  • 18Jack
  • 19McTominay
  • 20Shinnie
  • 21Archer

Albania

Formation 4-3-3

  • 23Strakosha
  • 4Hysaj
  • 5VeseliSubstituted forMihajat 90+1'minutes
  • 6Djimsiti
  • 3Binaku
  • 14Xhaka
  • 13Lilaj
  • 11NdojBooked at 64minsSubstituted forManajat 66'minutes
  • 21GavazajSubstituted forPrengaat 45'minutesBooked at 80mins
  • 19Balaj
  • 9MemushajBooked at 90mins

Substitutes

  • 1Berisha
  • 2Mihaj
  • 7Agolli
  • 8Basha
  • 10Manaj
  • 12Hoxha
  • 15Mavraj
  • 16Lika
  • 17Kace
  • 18Guri
  • 20Hyka
  • 22Prenga
Referee:
Matej Jug
Attendance:
17,455

Match Stats

Home TeamScotlandAway TeamAlbania
Possession
Home53%
Away47%
Shots
Home25
Away6
Shots on Target
Home6
Away2
Corners
Home8
Away3
Fouls
Home12
Away22

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Scotland 2, Albania 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Scotland 2, Albania 0.

  3. Post update

    Steven Naismith (Scotland) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Sabien Lilaj (Albania).

  5. Booking

    Ledian Memushaj (Albania) is shown the yellow card.

  6. Substitution

    Substitution, Albania. Enea Mihaj replaces Frederic Veseli.

  7. Post update

    Stuart Armstrong (Scotland) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Frederic Veseli (Albania).

  9. Post update

    Attempt saved. Stephen O'Donnell (Scotland) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

  10. Post update

    Scott McTominay (Scotland) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Ledian Memushaj (Albania).

  12. Post update

    Steven Naismith (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  13. Post update

    Foul by Herdi Prenga (Albania).

  14. Post update

    Foul by Scott McTominay (Scotland).

  15. Post update

    Ledian Memushaj (Albania) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  16. Post update

    Charlie Mulgrew (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  17. Post update

    Foul by Elseid Hysaj (Albania).

  18. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Leigh Griffiths (Scotland) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

  19. Booking

    Herdi Prenga (Albania) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  20. Post update

    Scott McTominay (Scotland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

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Scores, Results & Fixtures

Monday 10th September 2018

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1France21102114
2Germany10100001
3Netherlands100112-10

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Switzerland11006063
2Belgium00000000
3Iceland100106-60

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Portugal11001013
2Poland10101101
3Italy201112-11

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Spain11002113
2Croatia00000000
3England100112-10

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Ukraine22003126
2Czech Rep100112-10
3Slovakia100101-10

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Russia11002113
2Turkey21014403
3Sweden100123-10

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Bos-Herze11002113
2Austria00000000
3Northern Ireland100112-10

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Denmark11002023
2Wales21014313
3R. of Ireland100114-30

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Scotland11002023
2Albania210112-13
3Israel100101-10

J

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Finland11001013
2Greece11001013
3Estonia100101-10
4Hungary100101-10

K

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Bulgaria22003126
2Norway21012113
3Cyprus210123-13
4Slovenia200224-20

L

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Montenegro21102024
2Serbia21103214
3Romania20202202
4Lithuania200203-30

M

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Georgia22003036
2Andorra20201102
3Latvia201101-11
4Kazakhstan201113-21

N

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belarus11005053
2Luxembourg11004043
3Moldova100104-40
4San Marino100105-50

O

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Kosovo21102024
2Faroe Islands21013303
3Azerbaijan20201102
4Malta201124-21

P

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1North Macedonia22004046
2Liechtenstein21013213
3Armenia210123-13
4Gibraltar200204-40
View full UEFA Nations League tables

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