Scotland were deserved 2-1 winners against Iceland in a vital UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 5 qualifier this afternoon at Hampden Park.
Goals from Kenny Miller and defender Lee Wilkie sandwiched an Eidur Gudjohnsen strike for Iceland to increase the gap between the countries to four points in the table.
The result leaves Scotland top of the group on goal difference from Germany and in the driving seat to at least reach the play-offs, or even win the group . "I am very happy with the victory, it was an exciting game," said Scotland coach Berti Vogts. "If we beat Lithuania on Wednesday then we should be certain of a play-off place." However Iceland will feel unfortunate not to have taken anything from the game, especially after Dutch referee Rene Temmink awarded an indirect free-kick inside the box after defender Steven Pressley appeared to foul Gudjohnsen.
Scotland had the first opening in the fourth minute when Stevie Crawford tried his luck but the effort was weak and Iceland Árni Gautur Arason saved easily. However the hosts opened the scoring in the eleventh minute. Crawford held the ball up superbly before sending Graham Alexander scampering down the right and his cross was superbly turned past Arason by Miller.
Don Hutchison appealed for a penalty in the 33rd minute when he appeared to be tugged in the box by Arnar Vidasson but the referee waved the claims away and Alexander then fired in a shot which flew just past the post. Just seconds before the interval, Alexander caused more menace down the right when his cross was met by Gary Naysmith but the Everton FC midfield player's header was straight at Arason.
Iceland levelled the scores three minutes after the interval. A long ball forward by Johannes Gudjonsson caught Scotland defender Pressley napping and Chelsea FC forward Gudjohnsen raced clear to lift the ball over the advancing Robert Douglas.
Scotland tried to regain the advantage four minutes later when Alexander's corner was met by Wilkie but his header sailed over the crossbar. However the visitors almost grabbed the lead just seconds later when once again Johannes Gudjonsson set up Eidur Gudjohnsen, this time for a header, which trickled just past the post to the relief of the static Scotland defence.
Then came that bizarre moment when Pressley appeared to foul Gudjohnsen just inside the box yet the referee blew for an indirect free-kick claiming obstruction by the defender. Scotland recovered their composure and Barry Ferguson came close in the 59th minute with a stunning effort when he fired a shot goalwards from 25 metres only for the ball to skim the frame of the goal and fly just wide.
The Scots scored what proved to be the winner in the 70th minute. Alexander's free-kick released substitute Paul Devlin on the right-hand side and his pinpoint cross was met by Wilkie, whose towering header zipped past Arason and into the net.
"We passed the ball around well and should have been two or three up at half-time," said Scotland coach Vogts after the game. "We lost our concentration in the second half after the Icelandic goal."
'Bad goal to lose'
Meanwhile, Iceland coach Atli Edvaldsson seemed happy enough with his side's performance, despite the result. "Coming to Hampden Park and losing an early goal put us in a bad position immediately," he said. "It was a very bad goal to lose. I told the players at half-time to relax and enjoy the game. We scored a good goal and played much better in the second half."