Scotland may have flattered to deceive in the early part of tonight's game but Ross McCormack was on hand to finally get the goal that the early pressure deserved. It was a pity that the goal came in the 38th minute and not the 8th. Kenny Miller was still far too keen to take one touch too many in the first half and it could have been a disappointment if his misjudgement just a minute before the first goal was to be the main talking point of the game. Steven Fletcher also claimed their first international goal to keep Scotland's World Cup dream alive with a crucial win over Iceland at Hampden. George Burley was his usual bag of nerves on the touchline with various mysterious hand gestures his only indication of directing his players. Indridi Sigurdsson had levelled for the visitors but Burley's men managed to claim the three points which allows them to put distance between them and their nearest rivals in second place in Group Nine.
Celtic Conncetion tried to stir the blood before kick-off
There was confusion before the game over the status of captain Barry Ferguson and goalkeeper Allan McGregor - who had made his competitive debut in Saturday's 3-0 defeat in Holland - were they or were they not dropped from the team for a breach of discipline. The Rangers pair had indulged in a lengthy drinking session at the team's Loch Lomond base following their return from Amsterdam at the weekend, costing them their place in the starting line up for the crunch clash. However, both were named on the bench and were loudly booed by the Hampden crowd as the team was read about before the game. Craig Gordon was recalled to the number one shirt, while the skipper's armband went to Celtic captain Stephen McManus, who had missed the last game through injury. There were also starting roles for Alan Hutton, James Morrison and Steven Fletcher as Burley opted for a positive approach against a team who had lost to the Scots in all five of their previous meetings.
McManus leads the defensive line
Scotland started well and attempted to pile on the pressure in the opening spell, with Steven Fletcher seeing a shot deflected just wide of target. At the other end, Gordon comfortably dealt with Iceland's first corner, sparking cheers of encouragement and a chorus of 'There's only one Craig Gordon' from the crowd - the message to McGregor loud and clear. Kenny Miller - who squandered a great opportunity to give the Scots an early lead in Amsterdam - tried his luck with a low, swerving drive but the effort was easily smothered by goalkeeper Gunnleifur Gunnleifsson. Steven Fletcher - earning his fourth cap - was keen to make the most of his opportunity and was threatening again when he threw himself in front of a McCormack corner only to nod over. Morrison then played through Miller in front of goal but he hesitated and teed up the shot for Darren Fletcher instead but the goalkeeper was able to gather comfortably. The breakthrough eventually came six minutes before the break when excellent play saw Hutton race down the right flank and skip past Bjarni Eiriksson before finding McCormack to rifle high into the net. McManus could have doubled the advantage on the stroke of half-time but sent a header glancing over from McCormack's free-kick.
Hutton had been the architect of the opening goal and had a couple of decent chances to add his own name to the scoresheet after the restart. He lashed wide of the upright after Iceland's attempts to clear a Morrison cut-back landed at his feet. The Tottenham full-back then drew a decent save from Gunnleifsson with a well-struck shot. But it was Iceland who had the net bulging with 54 minutes on the clock. Palmi Palmason raced past McManus before smacking the post with a long-distance shot and the rebound fell kindly for Sigurdsson to drive home. Scotland recovered from the setback and were back in front with 65 minutes on the clock. McCormack's corner found McManus who delivered a header into the six-yard box where Steven Fletcher was waiting to nod into the back of the net. Scotland were forced to deal with a period of pressure from Iceland as they searched for the goal that would keep their own qualification hopes alive. Darren Fletcher could then all but have killed off any hope of another comeback when he chased a Morrison pass but Gunnleifsson was first to the ball. The Iceland goalkeeper then did well to block a thunderous free-kick from Morrison before the West Brom midfielder slotted agonisingly wide from a tight angle. Gordon prevented a late catastrophe when he blocked from both Eggert Jonsson and Hermann Hreidarsson as Scotland managed to hold on for the win which means South Africa in 2010 remains a possibility for now.
Game saver at the end
Scotland: Gordon, Hutton, Naysmith, McManus, Caldwell, Morrison (Rae 90mins), D Fletcher, Brown, Miller, S Fletcher (Teale 78mins), McCormack
Subs not used: McGregor, Berra, Ferguson, Clarkson, Whittaker
Goals: McCormack, S Fletcher
Iceland: Gunnleifsson, Danielsson, Eiriksson, Sigurosson (Bjornsson 80mins), Steinsson, Hreioarsson, AE Gunnarsson (Jonsson 70mins), Guojohnsen, Smarason, Palmason
Subs not used: Arason, Guomundsson, Sigursson, VP Gunnarsson, Bjarnason,
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