Scotland 2 Albania 0: Naismith inspires hope for McLeish

Steven Naismith was involved in both goals as Scotland rebounded from its Belgium defeat to ease past Albania.

Steven Naismith celebrates scoring for Scotland.   -  Getty Images

A much-improved Scotland made a bright start to its Nations League campaign with a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Albania in Glasgow on Monday.

Steven Naismith atoned for a poor first-half miss to play a prominent part in both goals and give Alex McLeish his second victory since returning to the post in February.

The Hearts striker will contest the credit for Berat Djimsiti's own-goal opener in the 47th minute but there was no doubt over the second he later headed home to cap his country's confident response to last week's 4-0 humbling against Belgium.

His goals mean McLeish's men have ended a run of three matches without scoring on home soil and, more importantly, join their opponents on three points at the top of Group 1 in League C.

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Scotland, evidently stimulated by its Belgium embarrassment, was full of endeavour in the early exchanges, swarming forward to Albania's consistent anxiety.

All that was missing was the reward for effort Naismith remarkably failed to provide when he nodded against the post at point-blank range in the 24th minute, Charlie Mulgrew having climbed to knock down a free-kick.

Redemption initially came with a slice of fortune as the assistant referee failed to spot the 31-year-old straying marginally offside at the far post before heading substitute Stuart Armstrong's cross in off the unknowing Djimsiti.

Bekim Balaj squandered two opportunities to restore parity but, unlike for his fellow striker, there was to be no reprieve as Naismith instead sealed the result with 22 minutes to play, punishing Thomas Strakosha for flapping at a routine corner.

What it means: Hope yet for Scotland

Played at a sodden Hampden Park against the backdrop of recent disappointment, this could well have been a forgettable night for the paltry crowd in attendance.

McLeish, though, proved true to his pre-match assurance that his second era was to truly begin with this match as a plan that includes changes to shape and style began to take life.

Pat on the back: Souttar a ray of sunshine

On his second Scotland appearance, John Souttar will have been relieved to learn international football does not always mean dealing with Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and company.

Here, the impressive young Hearts centre-back was composed in possession, ferocious in attacking the ball and looked just the kind of player McLeish must build his team around.

Boot up the backside: More to come from McGinn

There was much to admire about John McGinn's forward-thinking display in the heart of midfield and yet he could so easily have instigated Scotland's demise.

At fault for Belgium's opener on Friday, the Aston Villa midfielder was fortunate not to again pay the price for two dozy passes either side of half-time that could well have led to a different result.

Key Opta Facts

- Scotland attempted 25 shots versus Albania; as many as it mustered in its previous four games combined (25 shots).
- Scotland is unbeaten in its last seven competitive fixtures (W5 D2), its longest run without a competitive defeat since September 2001 (seven games).
- Two of Scotland’s last three goals in home matches have been own goals, with those netted by Berat Djimsiti (Albania) and Martin Skrtel (Slovakia).
- Scotland’s Andrew Robertson created more goalscoring chances than any other player on the pitch (four).
- Six of Steven Naismith’s eight goals for Scotland have come in home matches.
- Albania has kept just one clean sheet in its last nine matches in all competitions, a 1-0 win vs Israel.