First major finals in reach for Scots after Belarus win

Scotland midfielder Jo Love

Jo Love scored from a Lisa Evans cross

Scotland Women remained on course for qualification to the Euro 2017 finals but were made to sweat in the Minsk sunshine by a dogged Belarus.

Jo Love’s back-post header after 15 minutes was all Anna Signeul’s side could muster despite dominating for most of the 90 minutes.

It was enough to put them momentarily in pole position in Group 1.

But Iceland returned to the top on goal difference after thrashing Macedonia 8-0 at home a couple of hours later.

The Scots had been left reeling by a 4-0 defeat at home to Iceland on Friday that ended their own 100% record during qualifying.

And Freyr Alexandersson’s side remain favourites to top the group as they have a game in hand and host the Scots in their final game on 20 September.

However, six of the eight group runners-up also qualify automatically for the finals in the Netherlands, with the remaining two facing each another in a play-off.

Scotland, who travelled to Minsk as the third best of the second-placed teams and are assured of at least a place in the play-offs, were hoping for another landslide victory after thumping Belarus 7-0 at Fir Park in October.

It looked promising when midfielder Love rose to finish from a Lisa Evans cross.

Unfortunately for the Scots, the hosts appeared determined to avoid their six-goal, second-half collapse in Motherwell, with goalkeeper Nataliya Voskobovich in particularly obstinate mood.


Ifeoma Dieke was fortunate not to be sent off but put in a goal-saving tackle

She beat away a Caroline Weir drive and was at full stretch to reach another from Kim Little, with Hayley Lauder firing the follow-up just wide of the far post.

There was little for Gemma Fay to worry about in the Scotland goal by the time Erin Cuthbert, the 17-year-old Glasgow City midfielder once dubbed “Little Miss Messi” for a goal scored at youth level, replaced central defender Rachel Corsie at half time to make her international debut.

Jane Ross burst into the penalty area, but Voskobovich was on hand again to concede a corner from which Jenny Beattie looped a header over the crossbar.

As was the case on Friday, though, the Scots were looking vulnerable at the back as they pushed forward hoping to match Iceland’s 5-0 win in Belarus.

Anastasia Shuppo curled a drive just wide of the far post and Scotland centre-half Ifeoma Dieke, who was fortunate to be shown only a yellow card after denying what seemed a clear goalscoring opportunity before half-time, produced a goal-saving tackle that rescued the exposed Fay as the goalkeeper rushed out of the penalty area.

Most of the game continued to be played deep inside Belarus territory and Voskobovich pushed clear a Kirsty Smith drive before rounding off her fine display by tipping over a powerful long-ranger from Cuthbert that was destined for the net.

However, one goal was enough to secure the points that take Scotland to within touching distance of their first-ever major finals.

Belarus: Voskobovich, Beshten, Linnik, Shcherbachenia, Znaidenova, Urazaeva, Kozyupa, Slesarchik, Duben, Karachun, Avkhimovich. Subs: Kovalchuk, Novikova, Kunitskaya, Pilipenko, Markushevskaya, Shuppo, Dranovskaya.

Scotland: Fay, Dieke, Love, Lauder, Little, Weir, Evans, J Ross, Corsie, Beattie, Smith. Subs: Lynn, Ness, L Ross, Crichton, C Murray, Cuthbert, J Murray.

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