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Christie and McGinn hit the net as understrength Scotland defeat Cyprus

Scotland geared up for next year’s Euro 2020 play-offs with victory in a qualification dead-rubber.

John McGinn celebrates for Scotland
John McGinn celebrates for Scotland

RYAN CHRISTIE AND John McGinn fired a weakened Scotland side to a 2-1 win and a home-and-away double over Cyprus in Euro 2020 qualification today.

Neither team could progress from Group I following their respective humbling defeats to Russia last month, yet Scotland have a home play-off semi-final to come in March 2020.

They moved above hosts Cyprus into third in the standings here, too, victorious despite the absence of big names Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Scott McTominay and Ryan Fraser.

Christie’s first international goal put Scotland ahead after 12 minutes, before Giorgios Efrem equalised and McGinn hit back in the space of six second-half-minutes, seeing Scotland to a second 2-1 win over Cyprus in this campaign.

Cyprus came agonisingly close to opening the scoring inside six minutes as former Rangers winger Efrem smartly worked space inside the area and crashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar.

The ball seemingly bounced over the line but, with no technology to assist the officials, was not awarded as a goal.

There was no stopping the opener that followed at the other end, with Christie darting inside from the right and curling a glorious left-footed effort in from 20 yards.

Even better was to come from Efrem at the start of the second half, however, as he met a half-cleared set-piece with a sweetly struck volley that faded away from David Marshall into the top-right corner.

It proved merely a momentary setback for Scotland and they soon led again through McGinn, meeting Greg Taylor’s cross and directing a left-footed finish past Urko Pardo.

Ioannis Kosti should have levelled matters again but sent a stooping header just wide, while Fotios Papoulis was guilty of a glaring stoppage-time miss as Scotland held on. 

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Scotland’s hopes of reaching Euro 2020 now rest on getting the better of sides of a similar stature in the play-offs, making this victory against Cyprus – also in Nations League C – all the more encouraging. Steve Clarke’s men should certainly fancy their chances of reaching the finals if the likes of Robertson and McTominay are able to return next year.

This stage of qualification ends for these two sides on Tuesday, as Scotland host Kazakhstan while Cyprus visit Belgium. However, Clarke’s side have at least one more match still to come in the play-offs in March.

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