Craig Levein says Scotland’s poor performance against lowly Liechtenstein in their Euro 2012 qualifier at Hampden is irrelevant after Stephen McManus’s stoppage time goal sealed a 2-1 win.
Liechtenstein, with a population less than the 37,500 crowd packed into the national stadium, stunned their hosts when they took the lead 60 seconds after the break through captain Mario Flick, who was celebrating his 36th birthday.
Kenny Miller ended a 12-game goal-drought for the national side when he put Scotland level with a superb volley in the 63rd minute.
However with Scotland heading towards their most embarrassing result ever it was Middlesbrough’s McManus who appeared at the back post to send a header past Peter Jehle from substitute Barry Robson’s corner deep into injury time to save Levein’s blushes.
Despite such a disjointed performance from his side Levein claims Tuesday’s win, which sends Scotland top of Group I on four points with Lithuania, is all that matters.
“Obviously I’m a very happy man. The facts and the stats will show that we are top of the group with four points and that for me is the most important thing,” the Scotland boss said.
“There is a long way to go in the group but where we are just now is extremely pleasing for me.
“I know that a lot of people will want to talk about the game and say we didn’t do this correctly and we didn’t do that correctly. The thing is, for me, that is irrelevant.
“It’s the result that matters and also what matters is that the Czech Republic lost to Lithuania and that makes our result on Friday night look a little bit better as well.”
The Scotland manager praised his side’s never-say-die attitude after claiming victory with the last kick of the game.
“The good thing for me is that the players didn’t give up. While we didn’t play with much fluency at all we kept going and showed some grit and determination,” Levein said.
“Football is a funny game – one goal can make an awful lot of difference.
“There is big difference between two and four points. This was a situation where the supporters could have really got on our backs and had a go at us but what pleased me was they stuck with us right to the end.
“That sends them home with their team top of the group which if you had said that before the game I think a lot of people would have questioned if that was possible.
“I don’t think anyone who watched the game would say we were at our best tonight but come the end of the group stages that would might be the most valuable goal in our qualifying campaign.”
Liechtenstein manager Hans-Peter Zaugg was critical of Ukrainian referee Viktor Shvetsov’s decision to allow seven minutes of stoppage time to be played despite the fourth official’s board showing only five minutes.
But unsurprisingly Levein said he had no problem with the added time.
“I think the referee had every right to add on the time he added on. Even in injury time there was substitutions and time wasting going on,” he said.
“That can work one of two ways. Maybe that extra minute was added on because of all the time wasting which allowed us to score the goal.”
Levein says the win sets Scotland up nicely for their next game against the Czech Republic.
“The group is wide open. Lithuanian have obviously played very well to go over to the Czech Republic and win – that’s a pretty big achievement and all credit to them,” the Scotland boss added.
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