Belfast Telegraph

Under-fire Strachan smiling again after Scots find fresh spark

Lithuania 0 Scotland 3

By Andy Newport

Gordon Strachan hailed Scotland's 3-0 win over Lithuania as the most impressive of his four-year reign.

The national team boss has found himself under pressure during a testing World Cup qualifying campaign, but his side responded in fine fashion as they grabbed a much-needed victory in Vilnius to breathe new life into their hopes of reaching Russia. The Scots dominated the Lithuanians and got the points thanks to goals from Stuart Armstrong, Andy Robertson and James McArthur.

Strachan said: "When I imagined how the game was going to go earlier this week I couldn't see it being as good as that in terms of performance.

"I hoped and believed we would get a result, but to play as well as that was terrific. Other teams have come here (and struggled). Slovenia drew 2-2, Slovakia got a 2-1 - they very rarely get beat by a big margin. Even England had a problem trying to put them away.

"The individual performance from some of them were outstanding, so it was a good night.

"We have put up some great performances against Germany and Croatia, but in terms of pure football that was as good as it gets from my time.

"The guys were phenomenal. I'm really pleased. At one point, I could become a spectator and enjoy the football. It's not often you can do that as a manager. They were excellent. I think the team has changed dramatically in the past 18 months with the energy we've got.

"The technical side was good but I think the energy blew the Lithuanian team away."

Celtic midfielder Stuart Armstrong scored his first goal in dark blue of Scotland with a header from a Leigh Griffiths corner in the 25th minute and new Liverpool signing Andy Robertson curled in a glorious second five minutes later at the LFF stadionas.

Midfielder James McArthur made it 3-0 from close range in the 72nd minute to clinch three valuable Group F points.

After seven fixtures, Gordon Strachan's men have 11 points, but are still four points behind second-placed Slovakia, who beat Slovenia 1-0.

The Scots moved above Slovenia into third and face minnows Malta at Hampden Park on Monday before hosting Slovakia and travelling to take on Slovenia in what will be two tense games in October.

Lithuania: Setkus, Vaitkunas, Kijanskas, Freidgeimas, Borovskij, Zulpa (Spalvis, 68 mins), Kuklys, Cernych, Slivka (Verbickas, 79 mins), Novikovas, Sernas (Matulevicius, 82 mins). Subs: Zubas, Linas Klimavicius, Grigaravicius, Silenas, Girdvainis, Beneta, Vorobjovas, Cerniauskas.

Scotland: Gordon, Berra, Mulgrew, Robertson, Tierney, Brown, Armstrong (McGinn, 85 mins), Forrest (Ritchie, 66 mins), Phillips, McArthur, Griffiths (Martin, 79 mins). Subs: McGregor, Anya, Hanley, Bannan, Naismith, Morrison, Fraser, Whittaker, Archer.

Referee: Carlos Del Cerro (Spain)

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