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Last-gasp Scotland keep World Cup dream alive

Glasgow (AFP) – Scotland kept alive their hopes of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998 on Thursday, beating 10-man Slovakia 1-0 at Hampden Park with a goal in the dying seconds.

Martin Skrtel’s own goal, just two minutes from the end of normal time, leaves Scotland second in Group F on 17 points, six behind England after leapfrogging Slovakia and Slovenia, who lost 1-0 at Wembley.

A packed Hampden Park saw in-form Scotland, with Sheffield Wednesday’s Barry Bannan and Stoke’s Darren Fletcher in for the injured Celtic pair Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong, start brightly. 

They had an early penalty appeal waved away when Celtic’s Kieran Tierney went down in the box. 

Midway through the first half Martin Dubravka in the Slovakia goal produced an eye-catching save to keep out a headed effort from Christophe Berra but the key moment came in the 23rd minute, when Robert Mak was shown a second yellow card for simulation.

Despite their man advantage, Scotland, wearing pink, could not force a breakthrough, with Dubravka making two impressive saves from Leigh Griffiths.

Chris Martin and Griffiths both hit the woodwork as the second half wore on but as the minutes ticked away it appeared Scotland would not force the win they needed.

Scotland travel on Sunday to Slovenia, where they will hope to secure a result that will leave them among eight best qualifiers out of the nine European groups for Russia 2018.

Gordon Strachan’s men started their qualifying campaign slowly, with just four points from their first four matches but have turned things around with 13 points from their past five games.

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