Scotland 3 Lithuania 1: Big Eck's Beelin'
Alex McLeish came close to the biggest kick in the Baltics since Estonia's no-show against Craig Brown's Scotland 10 years to the very day (8th September) went unpunished by FIFA. It's doubtful the Scots word "Beelin'" can be translated for the benefit of Lithuania but that is the only way you could describe Big Eck after the 3-1 win. He answered the press corps questions politely and in an interesting manner but there was an undercurrent as Big Eck bit his lip and used the diplomatic word "simulation" on at least five occasions in relation to Saulius Mikoliunas. McLeish did not use the word "cheat" but maybe he thought it and he knows the Hearts man almost gained his nation a draw with an outrageous piece of gamesmanship. "Darren Fletcher put his foot firmly on the ground and kept it away from Saulius but the Lithuanian player was going to make sure he made contact with Fletch" said McLeish.
Composing himself the Scotland boss added: "I know Fletch did not want to swap shirts with the Lithuanian at the end of the game and that is his call, I back Fletch, and I have to say we don't go in for simulation in Scotland. All in all we are pretty honest and always have been, but I know I could be sitting here now at a very different press conference, it was fortunate the penalty came when there was plenty of time left, it was a recoverable situation and the lads responded and we got the result we wanted without playing that well. I told the fourth official as soon as the penalty was awarded that the Ref and Linesman had got it wrong but I don't know if he passed my comments onto the officials, the Continentals can sometimes make an art of simulation but maybe it's time for the Lithuanian Gordon Smith to have a word"
Lithuanian Head Coach Liubinkas paraded the usual cliches in relation to Scotland: "Scotland were more professional today, they have a better overall pool of players, they were faster and stronger but I do not think the pitch did either team any favours. Scotland can finish second in the group or even go onto win it if they do not lose to France in Paris. We congratulate Scotland but had we been more focused after the penalty award we may have gone home with a draw, and yes, I think it was a penalty." It was also not lost in translation that Lithuania thought Scotland were "very physical at times in the game."
McLeish is happy that Beattie, McFadden and Maloney's performances after coming off the bench gives him "selection headaches" for Wednesday night in France. He said: "We won't get carried away and start bowing to pressure to start with players in France who came off the bench and played well today. We have a good squad, if not a great squad, but the spirit was there after we went to 1-1 against Lithuania and that is one of the more pleasing aspects of today's result." And with that Big Eck bit his lip again and mentally crossed Hearts Lithuanian contingent off his Christmas Card list.
"Where did the four minutes Injury Time come from?" asked one reporter. Big Eck shrugged his shoulders as he exited but wouldn't it have been great if he had said: "Vlad?"
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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