• Shaun Maloney scores a 75th-minute winner to settle an even encounter
• Ireland denied by the crossbar deep into second-half added time
• Scotland move level with Ireland on seven points, three behind Group D leaders Poland
• Next games: Scotland v Gibraltar, Republic of Ireland v Poland (29 March)
Scotland's hopes of reaching UEFA EURO 2016 have been given a major boost after Shaun Maloney's 75th-minute goal earned a 1-0 win against Group D rivals Republic of Ireland in Glasgow.
This was the Scots' first match at Celtic Park since 1996 and witnessed two former Bhoys managers, Gordon Strachan and Martin O'Neill, return to the stadium they once called home.
Play flowed from end to end from the offset, and though the capacity crowd of 59,239 roared the Scots forward at every opportunity, it was the hosts' David Marshall who initially proved the busier of the two keepers. True to recent form, the Cardiff City AFC No1 dealt calmly with long-range efforts from Jon Walters and Darron Gibson, and it was not long before Strachan's side began taking a grip on proceedings.
The Scots certainly finished the first half in the ascendancy, although with lone striker Steven Fletcher expertly marshalled by the Irish defence, it was left to two defensive players to provide the potency. Charlie Mulgrew was the first to threaten, heading powerfully wide from 12 metres, and right-back Steven Whittaker soon picked up the baton, testing David Forde's reflexes with a left-foot shot.
However, it was with renewed purpose that the visitors started the second period and, after Shane Long had nodded into the arms of Marshall, Glasgow-born Aiden McGeady very nearly silenced his home city. The Everton FC winger came within a whisker with a left-foot effort that flashed centimetres wide.
However, it was another former Celtic player who ultimately made the difference. Maloney had struggled to make an impact but following a well-worked short corner, and a clever flick into his path by Scott Brown, the Wigan Athletic FC forward curled an perfect first-time shot just inside the far post from the angle of the box.
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