Scotland 3 (Hughes 2 {89, 90}, Hammell 78) Lithuania 2 (Stankevicius 6, Kucus 78 Pen)

HUGHES THE HERO IN SCOTS’ RESURRECTION

UEFA UNDER-21 QUALIFYING COMPETITION

Scotland 3 (Hughes 2 {89, 90}, Hammell 78) Lithuania 2
(Stankevicius 6, Kucus 78 Pen)

Attendance 5,289

Scotland came back from the dead to defeat Lithuania
3-2 in tonight’s European Championship Under-21
Qualifying tie at McDiarmid Park, Perth - a result
that ensures Rainer Bonhof’s men top the group ahead
of Germany.

Goal-scoring hero was Stephen Hughes of Rangers, who
came on as a substitute in 62 minutes, and netted
twice in the dying minutes of the game.

The Scots made a positive start with Gareth Williams
testing visiting goalkeeper Zydrunas Karcemarksas with
a twenty-yard drive in the second minute.

Four minutes later however the 5,289 crowd were
stunned when Marius Stankevicius caught Scots
goalkeeper Derek Soutar by surprise with a dipping
thirty-yard drive to give Lithuania the lead.

The Baltic men – who had already defeated Scotland 2-1
in Vilnius – took great heart from their early
success, and almost made it two in twelve minutes when
Mantas Savenas saw his shot from Tomas Radzinevicius’
flick blocked by Gary Caldwell.

Three minutes later the Scots were given a
gift-wrapped opportunity to level the scoreline when
Egidijus Majus was harshly adjudged to have handled
the ball as Simon Lynch moved on to a Shaun Maloney
slip. Lynch himself took the kick – only to see
Karcemarksas save his spot-kick.

Even this early in the proceedings the Lithuanians
were time-wasting, as was underlined when their
goalkeeper was yellow-carded for just such an offence.


Scotland continued to press for an equaliser, with
Maloney embarking on a mazy run in 32 minutes that
ended when his 18-yard effort was touched over by
Karcemarksas, although five minutes later the
Lithuanian goalkeeper fumbled the Celt’s drive only to
escape scot-free when the inrushing Peter Canero and
Michael Stewart both missed the rebound by inches.

Lithuania’s threat was unabated however – Majus’
net-bound shot from Ramunas Radavicius’ cross being
somewhat fortuitously blocked.

The half ended with the Scots still trailing by that
early goal, and when the opening fifteen minutes
passed without the situation being rectified Stephen
Hughes was introduced to the fray, replacing Gareth
Williams.

There was however a body blow for the home youngsters
in 70 minutes when Aurimas Kucys made it 2-0 from the
penalty spot Hammell had upended Deividas Cesnauskis.

Scotland were now standing on the edge of the abyss,
defeat meaning total elimination from the tournament,
yet out of the blue they were thrown a lifeline in 78
minutes when Hammell ghosted in at the back post to
turn substitute Tam McManus’ cross over the line.

The goal was the signal for a sustained spell of
pressure from the Scots, but with the seconds ticking
away their efforts looked to be in vain until – with
time almost up – a McManus cross was met by Hughes,
who twisted round in mid-air to direct his header
home.

A draw would have been enough to secure the group
runners-up position, but deep into injury time a
Hammell cross found Hughes who coolly controlled the
ball before firing a low drive into the corner of the
net.

Miraculously, Scotland had won, confirming their
status as group winners.

Goal hero Stephen Hughes reflected:

“I thought we were out of it. The team spirit in this
squad is great. I don’t score many – in fact I don’t
play all that much.”

SCOTLAND Soutar; Caldwell, Hammell; Kennedy,
McCracken, Williams (Hughes 62); Canero (McManus 69),
Kerr, Maloney, Stewart, Lynch (Gallagher 75)
UNUSED SUBS Gordon, Dowie, Montgomery, Dillon

LITHUANIA Karcemarksas; Paulaskas, Stankevicius,
Klimavicius, Majus; Savenas, Kucys, Cesnauskis,
Radavicius (Mikoliunas 88); Grigalevicius (Panka 67),
Radzinevicius (Kavaliauskas 62)
UNUSED SUBS Grybauskas, Tarvydas, Mizigurskis,
Mikuckis

REFEREE Emil Bozinovski (Macedonia)