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Saturday, 2 September, 2000, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Scots survive roasting in Riga
Latvia 0-1 Scotland
Craig Brown's Scotland survived a torrid 90 minutes in Riga, with Neil McCann stealing victory against the run of play minutes from the final whistle.
Latvia, the emerging Baltic state managed by Englishman Gary Johnson, had threatened to over-run the Scots in a lightning-quick first-half.
However, after Brown discarded his experimental line-up at the break, Scotland came more into the game and finally snatched victory after 88 minutes.
Everton's Don Hutchison rode a couple of challenges to advance into the box, the ball deflected wide towards McCann and the Rangers winger swept it home from eight yards.
Brown had sprung a surprise before kick-off by picking Matt Elliott as a striker.
It is a role he has played many a time before for Leicester City in the English Premiership but was a first at international level.
Brown's overall tactics were new too and he opted for a 3-4-3 line-up, with McCann and Billy Dodds either side of Elliott, while Christian Dailly, Colin Hendry and David Weir operated in defence, with Tom Boyd and Callum Davidson moved into wide midfield roles.
However, Scotland were under pressure right from the kick-off as Johnson's quick-passing side created all sorts of problems for the rather static back-three.
Elliott was given little chance to show his striking prowess in the opening quarter, as the defence were continually stretched by a home front-line led superbly by Marian Pahars.
Indeed, as early as the second minute, the Southampton striker could have won a penalty.
As Pahars twisted into the penalty box, he collapsed under what looked suspiciously like a shove from Christian Dailly, only for Swiss referee Andreas Schluchter to wave play on.
Boyd had recently complained about being uncomfortable when played on the right by Celtic and he was almost embarrassed after eight minutes.
Bristol Rovers midfielder Vitalijs Astasjevs was next to race at the Scotland defence and, although his shot from 17 yards had little power, goalkeeper Neil Sullivan would have been struggling if it had not been a few yards wide.
It took Scotland 15 minutes to threaten the Latvian goal, a Colin Hendry header after a corner going well wide.
However, Brown's side appeared to take heart from the Latvian fragility at set-pieces and, at the next corner, goalkeeper Aleksander Kolinko mis-judged the cross and Hutchison headed into the path of Elliott.
Kolinko redeemed himself, however, by holding the stand-in striker's swift turn and shot.
Andrejs Stolcers sent a 25-yard drive a couple of yards over the Scottish bar, but the visitors appeared to have weathered the early storm and almost took the lead after 34 minutes.
A high ball into the Latvian area bobbed invitingly around the six-yard box and finally McCann turned the ball towards goal only for it to be blocked on the line.
Latvia, though, quickly regained control and Pahars latched on to a long ball to the back post, but his volley from a tight angle was easily held by Sullivan.
The Scots should have been behind after 39 minutes when Davidson failed to clear in the box and Bleidelis could only blast over from 10 yards.
Pahars was then left angry when he again teased the Scots defence and sent in a drive that looked net-bound before it struck his own team-mate, Stolcers.
However, Latvia's clearest opportunity arrived in first-half injury time.
Astasjevs played a delightful ball in behind the Scottish defence and Bleidelis again squandered a good chance, his side-footed attempt from eight yards being parried past the post by Sullivan.
The Scotland coach had to do something and an injury to David Weir allowed Brown to move Elliott back in to defence, with Colin Cameron coming on to bolster the midfield and his Hearts colleague, Gary Naysmith, replacing Davidson at left back.
Those changes almost paid off immediately, Cameron latching on to a ball played back into his path by Dodds, but the 20-yard drive flew straight into Kolinko's arms.
After 69 minutes, McCann's persistence paid off wide on the left and his cross found Dodds, but although the striker lost his marker, the normally lethal Rangers man headed wide from 10 yards.
McCann then had an opportunity himself, only for his shot from 15 yards to be parried clear by Kolinko.
Latvia remained dangerous on the break and Sullivan did superbly to get his fingertips to a stinging, 25-yard drive from Stolcers.
It was Scotland, though, who finally got the breakthrough after 88 minutes and McCann almost added a second in injury time with an audacious 25-yard chip that forced the Latvian goalkeeper into a superb, one-handed save.
Latvia: Kolinko, Stephanous, Astasjevs, J. Laizans, Lobanevs, Blagonadezhdin, V. Ivanovs, Bleidelis, Pahars, Rubins, Stolcers.
Subs: Vanins, Vukans, Mikholap, Zakresevskis, Polakovs, Pelcis, Troickis.
Scotland: Sullivan, Weir, Dailly, Elliott, Hendry, Davidson, Boyd, Ferguson, Dodds, Hutchison, McCann.
Subs: Gould, Naysmith, McNamara, O'Neil, Holt, Cameron, Johnston.
Referee: Andreas Schluchter (Switzerland)
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