Belfast Telegraph

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Strachan looking up as Scots stay in the hunt

Scotland 2 Malta 0

By Andy Newport

Gordon Strachan was delighted as Scotland kept their World Cup hopes alive with a 2-0 victory over Malta in the qualifier at Hampden Park.

The hosts took the lead early on as Christophe Berra nodded Leigh Griffiths' corner home from close range at the far post within the opening 10 minutes.

Griffiths doubled their lead four minutes into the second half, tapping the ball home after James Morrison's effort hit the post. Scotland now have their qualification hopes in their own hands after the win and the two-goal cushion allowed attention to turn firmly to Wembley, where Group F leaders England came from behind to beat second-place Slovakia 2-1.

Strachan told Sky Sports Main Event: "We're very happy. As you know it was a must-win game.

"The performance was terrific - maybe I should have freshened it up a little bit, that's something to learn from.

"We wanted to make changes quite early in the second half but, because of the injuries, that gave us a problem.

"I was hoping to get a few forward players on - because of the injuries, it was a bit of a problem."

Strachan was pleased with his side's efforts in the Malta goalmouth, adding: "The chances we made, we made a lot of chances - 25 attempts, that's not bad, plus the 23 against Lithuania, that's nearly 50 attempts at goals.

"That's not bad going and no goals against, but we'd like to finish better. That may come in the next game.

"All that was good, so we can be really pleased with what we've done in the last (few days). Everybody in the squad, there's people disappointed they've not played but I think they understand that."

The Scotland coach retains the belief in his squad to make it to next summer's finals.

He added: "As long as everybody keeps fit and healthy (we can do it). The good players play well and we meet up again and hopefully we'll have a choice of guys on top form.

"I think...the last group we were involved in...Germany, Northern Ireland, Poland...that was a fantastic and hard group. All them went on to do well in the finals and we knew how hard it was going to be. But again we've made it kind of a roller-coaster ride."

Scotland: Gordon, Berra, Mulgrew (Hanley 56), Robertson, Tierney, Brown, Phillips, Armstrong, Forrest, Griffiths (Chris Martin 70), McArthur (Morrison 46).

Malta: Hogg, Magri, Agius, Zach Muscat, Steve Borg (Alex Muscat 86), Zerafa, Kristensen (Paul Fenech 84), Ryan Fenech, Pisani, Schembri (Gambin 71), Effiong.

Referee: Jakob Kehlet (Denmark)

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