Scotland boost Nations League promotion chances

Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser scored his maiden international goal as Alex McLeish’s Scotland thrashed 10-man Albania 4-0 in Shkoder on Saturday to close in on promotion from Nations League C.

The Scots will secure top spot in Group C1 and a Euro 2020 play-off place if they can beat Israel at Hampden Park on Tuesday.

“I had a good feeling about it and I felt if the players brought their performance level to the game then it would be positive and that’s how it turned out,” Scotland manager McLeish told Sky Sports.

Fraser scored an excellent individual goal to give the visitors a 14th-minute lead, latching onto the ball after Ryan Christie won possession, before cutting inside and curling the ball into the far corner to continue his fine form this season.

Scotland were handed a man advantage midway through the first half as Mergim Mavraj was sent off for head-butting Christie.

McLeish’s men were awarded a penalty shortly before the interval when Stuart Armstrong’s free-kick struck an arm in the Albanian wall, and Sheffield Wednesday striker Steven Fletcher stepped up to net for his country for the first time since September 2016.

Scotland made the most of the wide-open spaces available to them in the second half, with Christie sending Celtic winger James Forrest clear to loft in his first international goal 10 minutes after the restart.

Fraser turned provider in the 67th minute as his cutback was expertly flicked into the air and volleyed into the corner by Forrest.

The 27-year-old Forrest has now scored 11 goals in all competitions for club and country this term.

“James has been there or thereabouts in the last couple of years for Scotland,” McLeish added. “He’s won a lot of caps.

“He’s been in great scoring form for his club and he continued that which was marvellous to see.”


Earlier on Saturday, Kosovo took a big step towards reaching the qualifying play-offs for the Euros with a 5-0 thrashing of Malta.

Bernard Challandes’ side, who were only given Uefa membership in 2016, sit top in Group D3 and will secure promotion and a play-off place if they can avoid a home defeat against Azerbaijan in their final game on Tuesday.

Vedat Muriqi got the Kosovans off to a flying start with a 15th-minute opener in Ta’ Qali, and any Maltese hopes of a comeback were ended by Benjamin Kololli’s strike with 20 minutes remaining.

Striker Donis Avdijaj, who plays for Dutch top-flight club Willem II, added a double and Werder Bremen midfielder Milot Rashica’s 86th-minute fifth completed the rout.

Azerbaijan stayed in contention by seeing off the Faroe Islands 2-0 in Baku.

Elsewhere, Sweden kept their hopes of promotion to League A alive as Andreas Granqvist’s 71st-minute penalty gave the World Cup quarterfinalists a 1-0 win in Turkey to relegate their opponents.

The Scandinavians can finish top of Group 2, despite failing to win their first two games, if they beat Russia in Stockholm on Tuesday.

Romania kept the pressure on Serbia at the top of Group C4 with a 3-0 victory over Lithuania, after the Serbians had edged past Montenegro courtesy of goals from Adem Ljajic and Aleksandar Mitrovic.


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