Scotland remain on course to qualify for their first major tournament in a decade after a 3-1 home win against Ukraine kept them top of UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying Group B.
A second victory over France, in Paris last month, had left Scotland in a fine position to reach their first finals since the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and Alex McLeish's team were quickly into their stride at Hampden Park thanks to early goals from Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch. Although Andriy Shevchenko halved the deficit midway through the opening period, James McFadden made sure of the points to leave his side clear of Italy and France with two games to play and to effectively end Ukraine's slender qualification hopes.
McLeish's men made the perfect start as two free-kicks brought reward inside the opening ten minutes. First, McCulloch's perfect delivery from the left was met by Miller, who headed past Olexandr Shovkovskiy at the near post in the fourth minute. Six minutes later provider turned scorer as Barry Ferguson's set-piece picked out McCulloch with time and space, and the Rangers FC midfielder duly curled in a beautiful shot.
Ukraine, however, worked their way back into the contest and reduced the arrears in the 24th minute. The Scotland defence was unable to deal with Andriy Nesmachniy's left-wing cross, giving Shevchenko the chance the thump into the roof of the net from close range. The visitors continued to press for the remainder of the first period and the early part of the second, but without creating clear chances.
When a fourth goal did arrive, it was the home team who got it in the 68th minute as a typically driving run from Alan Hutton ended with a cross-field pass to McFadden, who controlled and drilled low past Shovkovskiy to score for the third successive qualifying game. Both sides are in action on Wednesday, when Scotland travel to Georgia and Ukraine take on the Faroe Islands.