Albania 0 Scotland 4: Forrest double sets up promotion showdown

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James Forrest scored twice as Scotland set up an all-or-nothing Nations League promotion shootout with Israel by dispatching 10-man Albania 4-0 on Saturday.

Alex McLeish's resources were spread thin by nine withdrawals but proceedings were smoother in Shkoder as Forrest struck a brace after Ryan Fraser and Steven Fletcher opened up a two-goal first-half advantage.

Albania captain Mergim Mavraj made the task simpler than it should have been, receiving a red card for headbutting Ryan Christie soon after Fraser's 14th-minute opener.

His team were left bottom of Group 1 in League C, from which Scotland can escape if they beat Israel - 2-1 winners in the reverse fixture - in Glasgow on Tuesday.

Albania's hopes of avoiding a third-place finish, where they are at risk of relegation pending results elsewhere, effectively evaporated in the space of seven minutes.

Fraser first capitalised on Taulant Xhaka's turnover to cut inside and curl into the bottom far corner, before Mavraj followed a poor tackle on James Forrest with a costlier moment of ill-discipline.

Scotland posed little threat until Rey Manaj was adjudged to have Stuart Armstrong's free-kick, enabling Fletcher to convert his first international goal since September 2016 in first-half stoppage time.

They were cruising within 10 minutes of the restart, Forrest striding onto Christie's through pass and beating Etrit Berisha in a one-on-one.

And the result was given an emphatic look when the Celtic winger made it a double in the 67th minute by taking a touch and firing home all in one fluid motion, taking Scotland level on six points with Israel.

 

What does it mean? McLeish okay without walking wounded 

Robbed of considerable experience with Kieran Tierney, Charlie Mulgrew and Steven Naismith among the men missing, McLeish will take great satisfaction from the no-fuss approach of his unheralded understudies, with new defensive partners Scott McKenna and debutant David Bates particularly accomplished.

Christie showcases international class

He wore Mavraj's elbow in the first half but Christie's influence extended well beyond that pivotal moment, the Celtic midfielder responsible for creating Fraser's opener with his harrying efforts on Xhaka and later pocketing a second assist for Forrest's first.

Mavraj madness undoes Albania

Mavraj, a 32-year-old with considerable experience on his resume, will have to accept full culpability for this result.

That he had been fortunate not to receive red for lunging in on Forrest moments before headbutting Christie made his indiscretion all the more egregious.

What's next?

Scotland will concentrate all of their energy on overcoming Israel at Hampden Park, while Albania will hope for a more positive outing in a home friendly with Wales on Tuesday.