Scotland Fight For Iceland Victory

George Burley finally tasted a home win as Scotland boss, with his side edging a hard-fought Group 9 World Cup qualifier against Iceland...
Coming off a disappointing 3-0 defeat against the Netherlands, Scotland were further rocked by the drinking antics of Rangers pair Barry Ferguson, the captain, and goalkeeper Allan McGregor. Both were dropped to the bench as punishment and booed before kick-off as their names were read out. Craig Gordon came in between the sticks, with James Morrison starting wide-left. Stephen McManus replaced Christophe Berra at the back, taking the captain's armband.

First Half

Despite all the turmoil, it was a pleasant night and a good home crowd inside Hampden Park, and the players responded positively.

Eidur Gudjohnsen was always going to be Iceland's chief threat and caused a scare early on, but the hosts started the better. James Morrison cut inside and teed up Steven Fletcher, whose goal-bound drive was deflected wide. However, the early momentum soon dissipated when it became clear that no golden opportunities were forthcoming.

Thus, Str√°karnir okkar came right back into the match. Youngster Aron Gunnarsson produced some dangerous long throw-ins and attacker Arnor Smarason was very busy in front of Barcelona man Gudjohnsen, who was finding more space than the Scots could afford to give him. Gary Caldwell and Stephen McManus had to make a succession of good blocks and interceptions lest the plucky visitors stun the home faithful.

Still, a handball claim against Alan Hutton was perhaps the visitors' best shout despite some positive build-up play.

At the other end, Steven Fletcher had deflected a Ross McCormack corner over the bar after failing to make clean contact.

Scotland were getting nervy and upped the tempo significantly with half-time looming.

First, Morrison did well out wide and found Kenny Miller in the box. The Rangers hitman should have hit first time on the spin, but he took a costly second touch and couldn't find the onrushing Darren Fletcher.

However, they came in another wave and were able to drown the minnows. Hutton went on one of his trademark mazy runs down the right flank, going round Bjarni Eiriksson before playing the ball across goal from the byline. Steven Fletcher resisted the temptation to collect, leaving it to run right though to McCormack, who side-footed his first international goal high into the net to give his side a crucial half-time lead.

Second Half

Having finally ended a 340 minute wait for a goal, the Scots looked confident after the interval. Hutton came close on a couple of occasions, sending a 25-yard effort just wide before having a closer effort turned wide after playing a one-two with Darren Fletcher.

Ross McCormack also came close to finding the head of Steven Fletcher with a dangerous free-kick delivery, but disaster struck almost immediately after that moment.

Palmi Palmason had a go from 25-yards, hitting Gordon's left-hand post. Indridi Sigurdsson was on hand to turn the rebound into the net.

Iceland continued to improve after their equaliser, although McCormack had another go from a well-placed free-kick, only for 'keeper Gunnleifur Gunnleifsson to gather nonchalantly.

On 65 minutes, Gary Teale was stripped and ready to come on for Steven Fletcher. However, so often the doomed player pops up to rip up the script, and so the Hibernian man did here. McCormack's corner was headed back into the six-yard area by McManus, and Steven Fletcher beat Gunnleifsson in the air to head his side back into the lead.

It was never plain sailing and the Scots were made to work hard for the duration, with the visitors always driven on by talisman Gudjohnsen. He robbed Gary Naysmith and Morrison had to bail out the full-back before the Blaugrana man could do damage.

Most of the action, though, came within the nervy closing minutes of the contest. Morrison had two quick-fire chances to secure the points, blasting a free-kick which needed palmed away before finishing wide of the post soon after, having robbed a dithering defender.

Looking for a grandstand finish, Iceland might have done better from an almighty scramble after a surging spell of pressure. Gudjohnsen and Smarason were amongst the mass of bodies, with Naysmith making a brave clearing header and goalie Gordon making a crucial double-stop. The ball squirted out to Palmason, who should have done much better as he volleyed high over the top.

Thus it finished, and Iceland have shown that they're no pushovers. Scotland have beaten them on all six occasions, but the last three games have ended 2-1 and they'll feel that they might have deserved a point at Hampden, based on their positive approach. As it stands, though, the Scots are second in Group 9 and back in the play-off hunt.

Scotland: Gordon, Hutton, McManus, Caldwell, Naysmith, Morrison, Darren Fletcher, Brown, McCormack, Miller, Steven Fletcher. Subs: McGregor, Teale, Berra, Ferguson, Rae, Clarkson, Whittaker.

Iceland: Gunnleifsson, Danielsson, Kristjan Orn Sigurdsson, Indridi Sigurdsson, Eiriksson, Steinsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Helguson, Palmason, Gudjohnsen, Smarason. Subs: Arason, Gudmundsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Eggert Jonsson, Gunnarson, Bjarnason, Bjornsson.

Greg Ptolomey,