Steven Naismith strikes to give Scotland hope of Nations League salvation

• Scotland 2-0 Albania
• Djimsiti 47og; Naismith 68

There was no acceptable alternative to victory for Alex McLeish in this, Scotland’s Nations League opener. The manager – unmoved from the pitchside for 90 minutes in pouring rain – knew that alright, such has been the scale of audible discontentment as surrounding the Scottish team. Handily for McLeish, Albania provided woefully limited opposition on the kind of mundane occasion so disappointingly removed from those that made Hampden Park a place for visiting teams to fear. Still, in this context, a win mattered more than anything. That Scotland fully deserved it was a bonus.

This success affords McLeish that priceless managerial commodity: breathing space. Earlier friendly fixtures cannot be discarded in analysis of this, McLeish’s second tenure, but here Scotland won when it mattered. The Nations League may yet prove their major tournament salvation.

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via Football | The Guardian

Scotland v Albania, Portugal v Italy and more: Nations League – live!

Scotland: McGregor, Souttar, Mulgrew, Tierney, O’Donnell, McGinn, McDonald, McGregor, Robertson, Russell, Naismith

Albania: Strakosha, Binaku, Hysaj, Veseli, Xhimshiti, Memshaj, Ndoj, Lilaj, Xhaka, Balaj, Gavazaj

Another wave of games and another foray into the not so long ago unknown, but this is a competition that seems to be growing on us all. Not everyone has given it the thumbs-up, but it’s better than those humdrum, meaningless friendlies. Still, the territory remains the same for Scotland, a team flagging under Alex McLeish. The manager has overseen five matches since his return, but has witnessed just a single win and goal scored. A 4-0 humbling to Belgium was pretty harrowing, and Albania is a must-win, McLeish says so himself. “If we draw or lose, then that is a bad start,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t rescue it but we want to get off to a flyer at Hampden on Monday night.” Albania have always proved awkward opponents and their coach, Christian Panucci, scored to hand Italy passage to Euro 2008 at the expense of the Scots. And Panucci senses blood in their opponents. “They will be suffering after the defeat and will be low on confidence,” he said. Elsewhere, Portugal take on the Italians, while Sweden entertain Turkey.

Kick-offs: 7.45pm (BST)

Related: Alex McLeish expectant of upturn in Scotland fortunes after sticky start

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via Football | The Guardian