Belfast Telegraph

Scotland 1 - 0 Republic of Ireland: Rep. of Ireland beaten by Scotland in Glasgow Euro 2016 qualifying clash

Shaun Maloney dragged Scotland firmly into the race for Euro 2016 qualification with a superb winner to end the Republic of Ireland's unbeaten start to the campaign.

The Wigan midfielder curled home the game's only goal 15 minutes from time as the Scots finally made the pressure tell against their Group D opponents at Celtic Park.

Substitute Chris Martin had earlier passed up a glorious opportunity to give the home side the lead from close range and Ireland very nearly snatched a point at the death when Robbie Brady's free-kick glanced off a Scottish head and cannoned against the crossbar.

Ireland were handed an early opportunity to put keeper David Marshall under pressure when they were awarded a first-minute free-kick 30 yards out, but James McClean drilled his effort harmlessly into the defensive wall.

Jon Walters proved more threatening seconds later when he cut inside on to his right foot and tested Marshall with a long-range strike which bounced nastily in front of him.

However, it was Republic keeper David Forde in the firing line with four minutes gone when the in-form Steven Fletcher met Shaun Maloney's corner with his head, but lifted his effort over.

In a frenetic start, Maloney helped full-back Robertson's driven near-post cross over with Stephen Ward doing his best to put the midfielder off, but Gibson called upon Marshall once again when he latched on to a weak defensive header and sent in a dipping 11th-minute volley which the keeper claimed with ease.

McGeady, who had been booed by a section of the home support on his first touch, incurred their wrath again and that of referee Milorad Mazic when he felled Fletcher with a late challenge and was booked for his pains.

But Scotland were starting to gain the upper hand with Steven Naismith and Fletcher combining repeatedly to stretch the visitors' defence, although troubling Forde.

Maloney was causing problems for Ireland as he slotted into the hole behind Naismith and Fletcher, an area in which Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy would have been had injury not ruled the pair out, and Gibson and Jeff Hendrick were struggling to contain him.

Forde needed treatment after a collision with Hanley as the pair challenged for a 28th-minute high ball, the Scot's involvement costing his side a free-kick.

Hendrick became the third man to go into the referee's notebook for a foul on full-back Steven Whittaker with the challenges continuing to fly in in an increasingly scrappy affair.

However, the Scots went close 11 minutes before the break when skipper Scott Brown picked out Maloney on the left and he floated a cross to the far post for Mulgrew to power a header just wide.

Walters sliced another speculative effort well wide with 37 minutes gone, but Forde was called upon for the first time seconds later to field Whittaker's skidding left-footed effort.

The Ireland keeper looked to be in serious trouble with four minutes of the half remaining when the impressive Maloney controlled a high ball brilliantly and crossed to the near post for Fletcher, but the frontman failed to connect with an ambitious flick.

Mulgrew powered a header wide from Shaun Maloney's 34th-minute cross with striker Steven Fletcher having earlier cleared the bar with an effort of his own as the home side enjoyed the better of the first half.

Ireland created little of note, although both Jon Walters and Darron Gibson tested keeper David Marshall from distance, but not to any great extent.

There were cheers from the home supporters when former Celtic midfielder Roy Keane, now O'Neill's number two, was summoned by Mazic after disputing a decision and left in little doubt as to what was required of him at the end of an eventful few days.

Walters enjoyed a major escape when he glanced Mulgrew's free-kick on to his own crossbar, but the respite was only temporary as the Scots look the lead from the resulting corner.

Maloney took a short corner and then made ground to receive Scott Brown's lay-off before curling a superb right-footed shot past Forde's despairing dive and inside the far post.

Ireland launched a concerted late assault as Scotland retreated in an effort to defend their advantage and came within inches of an injury-time equaliser when Brady's free-kick glanced a Scottish head and came back off the bar.

Teams:

Scotland: Marshall, Whittaker, Russell Martin, Hanley, Robertson, Maloney, Mulgrew, Brown, Anya, Naismith, Steven Fletcher. Subs: Gordon, Chris Martin, Berra, Dorrans, Bannan, Greer, Darren Fletcher, Burke, Russell, May, Gilks.

Republic of Ireland: Forde, Coleman, Keogh, O'Shea, Ward, McGeady, Hendrick, Gibson, McClean, Walters, Long. Subs: Randolph, Clark, Christie, Keane, Meyler, Pilkington, Brady, Quinn, Pearce, Murphy, Given.

Belfast Telegraph Digital