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Scotland 1 Lithuania 1: McArthur header salvages draw

James McArthur’s late equaliser spared Scotland’s blushes as they drew 1-1 with Lithuania in World Cup qualifying on Saturday.

The Scots were out to build on their 5-1 hammering of Malta on matchday one, but they spurned several opportunities and failed to heed previous warnings from Lithuania, falling behind through a clever goal from Fiodor Cernych.

Captain Cernych capped off a well-worked Lithuania move in clinical fashion 59 minutes in to stun the hosts.

Scotland remained persistent and desperately poured men forward towards the end, but it looked as if they were going to slip to a shock defeat at Hampden Park.

But Crystal Palace midfielder McArthur popped up in the 89th minute to salvage a share of the spoils with a header after Lithuania failed to deal with a long throw into the box.

There was still time left on the clock for Scotland to complete the turnaround, but Lithuania clung on to take another point to add to their commendable 2-2 draw with Slovenia last time out in Group F.

Lithuania started in encouraging fashion and looked capable of causing Scotland some problems, particularly through the lively Arvydas Novikovas.

But Scotland were the bigger threat and went close in the 13th minute – Chris Martin meeting Robert Snodgrass’ free-kick delivery with a glancing header that went just wide of the right-hand post.

Another Snodgrass set-piece had Lithuania panicking shortly after, as he tried for goal from 30 yards and narrowly missed the bottom-right corner.

Lithuania struggled to craft opportunities when in the ascendancy, while Scotland missed another chance 26 minutes in – Martin directing Snodgrass’ cross agonisingly past the post as he was being manhandled by Georgas Freidgeimas.

Darren Fletcher, collecting his 75th cap, was withdrawn for McArthur at half-time, but the change did little to shore things up for the hosts, as Lithuania nearly took the lead within two minutes – Novikovas getting loose in the area and forcing David Marshall into a crucial stop.

That let-off seemed to jolt Scotland into life and they began to exert control – Martin rounding off a clever move up the left by nodding Andrew Robertson’s cross just off target.

Lithuania made them pay for their profligacy, however, as Cernych flicked the ball to Vykintas Slivka and then received a return pass into the area before blasting past Marshall to finish a fine move.

Scotland threw men forward without much regard for their defensive stability and that tactic almost backfired spectacularly in the 73rd minute – Cernych racing on to a lofted pass behind the defence and sending a half-volley within a couple of yards of the bottom-right corner.

Lithuania’s defensive resistance failed to hold up, though, as Callum Paterson’s long throw was flicked on by Grant Hanley and McArthur nodded in from close range, snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat with a minute to go.

Sat 8 Oct, 2016
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