Lithuania gave their UEFA EURO 2004™ qualification hopes a huge boost with a narrow win over Scotland in Kaunas in their Group 5 encounter. A 74th-minute penalty from Tomas Razanauskas was enough to seal the points for the hosts, despite Berti Vogts's side dominating for long spells.
After scoring in the 1-1 draw with Germany on Saturday - heralded as Lithuania's greatest ever result – Razanauskas capped a spectacular week with his goal here, and put his side in a strong position to compete for a place in Portugal next summer.
Gallacher called on
In the build-up to the game, Vogts was forced to draft in young goalkeeper Paul Gallacher for Robert Douglas, whose groin injury rendered him unfit, while the sidelined Barry Ferguson’s place was taken by Jackie McNamara.
The changes did not effect the visitors' confidence, and they started with the self-belief borne of their 2-1 victory over Iceland on Saturday. By contrast, Lithuania began the game in uninspiring fashion. Scotland, all neat passing and strong running, dominated possession from kick-off. With right-back Graham Alexander sending in cross after cross from the flank and Don Hutchison controlling midfield, a goal seemed increasingly likely.
On 15 minutes it nearly came. Steven Crawford missed the ball in a scramble at the far post, but the ball dropped to Lee Wilkie on the edge of the box. Wilkie, who scored the winner against Iceland, struck low and hard but straight at Gintaras Stauce.
Vogts's team failed to convert their control into similar chances though, and it was Lithuania that finished the half the stronger. Edgaras Jankauskas sent a volley into Gallacher's arms on 35 minutes, while only a diving Steven Pressley header saved Scotland with a minute to go before the break.
Scotland came out after the break with renewed vigour. Kenny Miller ran elusively, while Crawford, suffering from a rib injury, was replaced by Paul Devlin. But Hutchison remained the most impressive player on the pitch and, on 63 minutes, he twisted past his man, but his low shot was well held by Stauce at the second attempt.
Then, with the game seemingly destined for a draw, Darius Maciulevicius went past McNamara in the box. Maciulevicius was tripped by the Scotland midfield player and the referee gave a penalty. Razanauskas took along run up, and Gallacher could not keep his low, hard shot from going in off his body.
The luckless visitors threw everything forward in a bid to snatch an equaliser. On 87 minutes, Pressley met an Alexander cross from a free-kick on the right with a firm header, but it went narrowly over. Vogts's side were restricted to half-chances in stoppage time, and saw the game finally drift away from them.