Scotland kick-started their EURO 2004™ qualifying campaign with a deserved 2-0 win over Group 5 rivals Iceland in Reykjavik.
Goals either side of half-time from Christian Dailly and Gary Naysmith gave the visitors three vital points - and ended a run of six winless games under coach Berti Vogts. Defeat would have represented an all-time low for Vogts following the 2-2 draw in the Faroe Islands in Scotland's first competitive match under the German's guidance.
The subsequent withdrawal from the squad of Everton FC defender David Weir had been a further blow to the besieged manager - yet Scottish worries lifted the moment Dailly looped a header over goalkeeper Árni Gautur Arason from Naysmith's right-wing cross after only seven minutes.
The West Ham United FC man, who like Weir had been criticised for his part in the Faroes debacle, profited from an early spell of pressure from the visitors. His new central defensive partner, Stephen Pressley, almost doubled the lead from an identical position but headed over.
Despite the injection of confidence, the Scottish defence looked fragile when Iceland's star man, Eidur Gudjohnsen, swapped passes with Helgi Sigurdsson before flashing a shot against Rab Douglas's crossbar on 20 minutes. A better chance fell to the Chelsea FC man two minutes later following Haukur Gudnason's break down the right, but the finish was wayward.
Gudjohnsen continued to offer inspiration to Iceland, yet it was Scotland's front two of Steven Crawford and Steven Thompson who threatened to conjure the second goal through sheer perspiration. Thompson was close to connecting to Crawford's flick-on on the half-hour, and the pair then harried Arnar Vidarsson into presenting the visitors with another good chance shortly before the break.
Goal of rare quality
After the restart, though, Atli Edvaldsson's men began to press home their advantage as hosts. Gudjohnsen released Bjarni Thorsteinsson into the Scottish area with a cute pass and it took a desperate Lee Wilkie block to keep out his goalbound shot. But just when Scotland looked to be wobbling, Naysmith struck a goal of rare quality, controlling Maurice Ross's cross from a position just inside the penalty area before turning and firing a half-volley into Arason's top right-hand corner.
Thereafter Scotland carried the greater threat. Crawford, who had wasted a good opening moments after the break, went close to making amends with a header that flew centimetres wide from another Ross centre on 70 minutes.
Slice of good fortune
Iceland, meanwhile, controlled possession but lacked impetus in attack. Only a shot from Gudnason that dropped into the grateful hands of Douglas, and a half-chance abandoned by Larus Sigurdsson following a corner, were causes of concern to Vogts, who had arguably earned his slice of good fortune.