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Scotland 1-1 Lithuania: Gordon Strachan defends ‘unlucky’ Scots

Grant Hanley and Robert Snodgrass look dejected at full-time

Scotland duo Grant Hanley and Robert Snodgrass look dejected at full-time

Scotland boss Gordon Strachan says his side’s second-half display against Lithuania was the “best we have played for a long time”.

The hosts went behind to Fedor Cernych’s strike just before the hour.

But Strachan felt that earning a 1-1 draw with a late James McArthur header was “a good point in the end”.

“We made more chances than we did in Malta, it was exciting at times. To drag ourselves back after the body blow of the goal was terrific,” he said.

“We congratulate the lads on that, and for going for it. We’re second [in Group F], that’s where it leaves us.

“There were a lot of chances cleared off the line, could have been handball, could have been this, could have been that. It could be a good point in the end.

“Only later on we’ll find out if it’s a good point. It’s a strange group, Slovakia got beaten, England only beat Malta 2-0.”

Although Scotland created chances for James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths after Cernych’s opener, the equaliser did not come until the 89th minute.

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James McArthur’s equaliser provided a measure of relief for Scotland

Substitute Leigh Griffiths took a tumble in the box in added time as Scotland claimed a penalty, but Strachan remained positive despite the team being booed off at the end.

“I thought the first half was like an English Championship game, where one team hits the ball to their strikers, and then the other team does the same,” the Scotland manager said.

“It was basically a game of knock-ons and knock-downs, who wins it, and it’s very hard to play when the ball is in the air a lot. You need to be really brave and on top of our form to deal with that type of football.

“I don’t see that we were lucky, I think that we were unlucky. I thought we’d win [as the game went on].

“There were a lot of chances, it just so happened we took the chance later on, which wasn’t as good as some of the others we had.

“The ball just sliding by the post, the boy heading the ball off the line at the end, it maybe being a penalty. There are a few things that were unlucky. You might put it down to just not finishing well.

“Some would say there was a handball in there somewhere along the line. [Given the] chances in the second half, we were the far better team.”

Strachan revealed captain Darren Fletcher was taken off at half-time with a thigh strain and is unlikely to feature in Tuesday’s trip to face Slovakia, where he believes his team can take something from the game.

“Definitely, it can be done,” he said. “We’ll shake it up a wee bit, that’s for sure, but there were some good performances, some brave performances.

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Chris Martin suffered a frustrating night, seeing a volley and header go wide

“I thought Chris Martin was outstanding up front, bringing people into the game, Barry Bannan was terrific. There was a lot of good stuff from individual players. Some would probably want to play a bit better, that’s for sure, but the effort and character was good.

“[The 1-1 draw] doesn’t change much for us. We had a team in mind for that game on Tuesday and the way we’re going to play, so it doesn’t change much.”

Lithuania manager Edgaras Jankauskas defended his team from accusations of time-wasting and said he felt the draw was “a fair result”.

“We are not used to intensity of that level, so none of my players did that on purpose,” Jankauskas said. “If they were lying down on the grass it was because they were exhausted, with cramps, they went down in a tackle or they were elbowed in the head.

“So I want to defend my players and say they didn’t do that on purpose. There was no order to do that. We are here to play an honest game, our goal is not to take points at any cost. We want fair football.

“The game was very physical, at some points it looked like a battlefield, because elbows were flying. No-one was giving easy balls away, they were fighting for every yard of the pitch.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37599252