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Scotland open Nations League campaign with 2-0 win

The national team defeated Albania at Hampden with Steven Naismith on the scoresheet.

Scotland's Steven Naismith (left) wheels away after scoring the second.
Scotland's Steven Naismith (left) wheels away after scoring the second. SNS Group

Scotland found form when it mattered, defeating Albania 2-0 in their Nations League opener at Hampden on Monday night.

Striker Steven Naismith did the damage for Alex McLeish's side, forcing an own goal for the opener and heading home the second as Scotland took three points and a shot in the arm following the bruising friendly defeat to Belgium.

After only one win in the five friendly games since his return to the hot seat, McLeish had said that the first competitive game was the true start to his second spell in charge.

The manager had elected to make changes to his starting side again and was rewarded with a bright start against an Albania team that had defeated Israel in their first group game last week.

Callum McGregor's free-kick was palmed over the bar by Thomas Strokasha in the fourth minute and the Albania keeper spilled another set piece and scrambled to recover just minutes later. Scotland established themselves quickly and Albania were forced to sit in and look for rare chances on the counter.

Despite having more than their fair share of possession, Scotland couldn't find a breakthrough. Naismith headed against the post in the 23rd minute after a Charlie Mulgrew knockdown from a corner.

The Hearts forward then had the ball in the net just before half-time but was ruled offside.

After the break, he got his reward. An exchange between Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong and Andy Robertson ended with the captain swinging in a cross and Naismith met it with his head, directing the ball off Berat Xhimshiti and into the net.

The own goal briefly sparked danger from Albania and Allan McGregor had to produce a smart save to deny Bekim Balaj. The Albania forward was involved against on 65 minutes when he got past Tierney to connect with Ndoj's cross but fired well over the bar.

Shortly afterwards, Naismith got the goal he deserved and sealed the win Scotland had earned. The forward peeled off a group challenging to head a corner and ounced on the loose ball, nodding it past Strakosha.

The goal gave the hosts a cushion and allowed them to see out the remainder, taking the sting out of the game and ensuring Albania didn't provide a late scare.

Scott McTominay was brought off the bench for his first competitive appearance and earned a free kick in a dangerous position that fellow sub Leigh Griffiths couldn't get on target.

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