Scotland remain in touching distance of the Czech Republic in second place in UEFA EURO 2012 qualification Group I after a narrow victory against Lithuania at Hampden Park.
Scotland appeared to have wasted their best opportunity when Darren Fletcher missed a first-half penalty but Steven Naismith spared his blushes five minutes after the break, slotting Barry Bannan's cross past Žydrūnas Karčemarskas.
Needing victory to stay in touch with the Czech Republic in second place, Scotland started brightly with Aston Villa FC midfielder Bannan at the heart of their good attacking play. The hosts dominated the opening 20 minutes, enjoying 72% of possession, and created the first meaningful chance only for Don Cowie's volley to sail over the crossbar.
The hosts' pressure began to take its toll on Lithuania and they came close to taking the lead but for Karčemarskas to save smartly from Fletcher's effort at his near post. From the resulting corner Naismith should have put Scotland in front but the Rangers FC forward headed over from close range.
Gary Caldwell's pass was then intercepted by Deividas Šemberas who broke clear but, with only one defender to beat and two team-mates in support, his shot was blocked and the danger passed. On the stroke of half-time Scotland were awarded a penalty as Tadas Labukas handled Bannan's free-kick but Fletcher's spot kick was well saved by Karčemarskas low to his left.
Scotland went ahead five minutes into the second half, though, as Naismith met Bannan's delightful curling cross on the half-volley to score via the right-hand post. As Scotland pushed forward in search of a decisive second goal, Lithuania became more dangerous albeit without really threatening an equaliser. Caldwell came close to giving Craig Levein's side a two-goal cushion seven minutes from time but his header, from another superb Bannan cross, drifted narrowly wide. Scotland travel to Liechtenstein on 8 October while Lithuania host the Czech Republic on 11 October.
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