Scotland have kept their World Cup 2018 hopes alive with a convincing win away to Lithuania. The Scots knew a win was vital if they wanted any hope of reaching Russia next summer and yesterday evenings result boosts Gordan Strachan’s men heading into the final three matches of the campaign.
Lithuania came into this match at the LFF Stadium in Vilnius with Hibs midfielder Vykintas Slivka starting in midfield while his club mate Deivydas Matulevicius had to be content with a place on the bench.
Scotland boss Gordan Strachan made 3 changes from the last World Cup Qualifier at Hampden versus England. James McArthur, Matt Phillips and James Forrest came in to the starting lineup, replacing James Morrison, Robert Snodgrass and Ikechi Anya.
It was the visitors who started brightest, with Leigh Griffiths and Stuart Armstrong firing efforts wide of Ernestas Setkus’ goal inside the opening 10 minutes.
The game opened up with ex-Hearts man Arvydas Novikovas firing wide at one end before Matt Philips done everything but score at the other.
Armstrong hit another effort wide before Lithuania got a free-kick on their right. Up stepped Novikovas who forced the first save of the evening from Craig Gordon before Griffiths had a set-piece chance of his own hut the Celtic striker couldn’t repeat the trick he done twice against England in June.
The opener came just over the midway stage of the opening period. Griffiths swung in a left footed corner from the right and his club team-mate Stuart Armstrong made it third time lucky: this time, with his head, the midfielder nodded Scotland ahead.
Just five minutes later Gordon Strachan’s side doubled their advantage. A flowing move forward saw the ball land at the feet of Andy Robertson who found the back of the net with a left footed effort from 20 yards out.
Novikovas had the last effort of the half as the hosts ended strongly, without creating too many chances. The next goal would be critical to the tie and former Jambo, Edgaras Jankauskas will be emphasising this to his side at the break while the Scots know they’re well in command and a third goal would likely kill the match as a contest.
Scotland started the second half on top but after Griffiths and Armstrong had failed to hit the target, it was Slivka who almost pulled a goal back for the hosts.
Novikovas took on Kieran Tierney and got a delivery in from the Lithuania left. Christophe Berra failed to clear the danger but Craig Gordon was untested as the midfielder fired his shot wide.
Matt Richie came on for James Forrest and he was involved in the third goal for the visitors. Armstrong had a shot partied away by the keeper and as the hosts failed to clear the danger, it was the Newcastle winger who took advantage with a quick throw-in from the right; he picked out Leigh Griffiths inside the area who laid it off for James McArthur: the Crystal Palace man stayed cool to slot home from close range.
Chris Martin and john McGinn came on for late sub appearances but the Scots cruised to victory. Martin had a late effort but he couldn’t make it four.
Gordan Strachan’s side have kept their hopes of qualification alive with this win. With three games to go, Scotland are in a good position in Group F. All attention now turns to Malta at Hampden Park on Monday evening.
With Slovakia defeating Slovenia, Scotland move up to third, four points off second spot.