FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup Qualifier
Scotland v Belarus
7 June, 7.35pm kick-off
Falkirk Stadium, Falkirk
Scotland: Cuthbert (45, 65); Belarus: Oikhovik (28)
Scotland fought back from a goal down against a limited Belarus side, dominating the match to win 2-1 and stay in the race for automatic World Cup qualification from Group Two.
Scotland began the match positively, retaining possession and peppering the Belarussian area with a number of dangerous crosses. Kim Little curled a dangerous ball across the face of goal that Jen Beattie was unlucky not to get her head to after only two minutes.
More probing play on the sixth minute saw Jane Ross fashion a chance on the edge of the box, her left-footed strike unable to trouble Voskobovich in goals.
Though Scotland were enjoying the lion’s share of possession they were struggling to fashion clear cut chances. Caroline Weir tried her luck from distance in the 15th minute, latching onto a loose ball and driving forward, her 30 yard effort clearing the bar by a few yards.
Scotland should have taken the lead on 20 minutes. A swift counter attack saw Scotland bear down on the Belarussian goal, Weir working it inside to Cuthbert, who carried the ball into the six yard box.
Her driven effort was saved by the feet of the goalkeeper, the rebound falling invitingly to Kim Little, whose placed shot was cleared off the line.
Their tails now up, Scotland continued the assault on goal. Emma Mitchell drove down the left flank. Beating her opposite number and hitting a fierce drive towards the near post that the keeper could only turn behind, the resulting corner amounting to nothing.
Another Emma Mitchell cross then fizzed across the goalmouth on 25 minutes but again somehow failed to yield a goal, as it evaded Jane Ross before Erin Cuthbert’s touch saw it roll harmlessly out of play.
Despite being under intense pressure from Scotland, Belarus somehow took a shock lead with what was their first attempt at goal.
After Scotland lost possession on the right of midfield Belarus broke forward, working the ball to the edge of the box. Oikhovik’s looping strike on the run from distance proved to be too high for Lee Alexander, who, despite getting fingertips to the ball, was unable to keep it out.
Scotland thought they had grabbed an instant equaliser on 30 minutes when Jane Ross latched onto a quickly taken Erin Cuthbert free kick only to be denied by the assistant referee’s flag for offside.
The home side could have been forgiven for thinking that an luck was firmly not on their side mere moments later when they struck wood twice in quick succession, Jane Ross blasting off the post before the loose ball made its way to Lisa Evans, her first time instinctive shot looping over the keeper and coming back off the crossbar.
The woodwork was proving to be Belarus’ best defence and it came to their aid again two minutes before half time.
Pressure from Scotland in the Belarus box saw the ball worked back to Claire Emslie on the edge of the area. Her first time shot rose past the keeper only to come careering back off the cross bar before it was cleared to safety.
Just as it looked as though Scotland would go into the break behind they scored a memorable equaliser.
Caroline Weir showed excellent determination and footwork to win the ball on the halfway line before driving forward and unleashing Erin Cuthbert down the inside right channel.
Cuthbert showed excellent pace to reach the byeline with a defender in hot pursuit. Her finish matched the excellent build-up play that had come before it, a chipped effort over the onrushing goalkeeper that nestled sweetly in the far side of the net, much to the delirium of the crowd.
Shelley Kerr opted to make one change at half time, bringing the right footed Fiona Brown on for Claire Emslie on the left wing.
The change almost reaped dividends on the 51st minute, Lisa Evans cutting in from the right and curling a delicious ball over the defence to Brown, whose touch let her down when clean in on goal.
With half an hour remaining on the clock, Scotland had effectively set up camp in the Belarus half but had been unable to create any clear cut chances.
That all changed on 65 minutes when Erin Cuthbert grabbed her second of the night to give Scotland the lead that they richly deserved.
A driving run from Fiona Brown down the left wing saw her go past two players and make her way into the box. Her measured cutback was inch perfect for Cuthbert who took a touch to wrong foot her marker, before slotting the ball past the helpless Voskobovich.
The returning Lana Clelland, on as a substitute for Jane Ross, nearly extended Scotland’s lead on the 85th minute. She was played in on goal by a delicate through ball from the excellent Cuthbert, but hit her shot at the advancing goalkeeper.
The loose ball was worked out to another substitute, Lizzie Arnot, on for Lisa Evans to earn her first cap in more than a year after recovering from a nasty ACL injury.
Despite some neat footwork to make room for the cross she was unable to find a teammate, Belarus clearing the ball to safety.
Scotland were content to keep hold of possession as they closed out the match to earn a vital victory.
Scotland now travel to Poland, where they will face the third-placed team in the group in Kielce on Tuesday night in a crucial match in the campaign.
Should Scotland win, they will draw level on points with group leaders Switzerland, though Switzerland will have the chance to pull away when they play away to Belarus later that evening.
Scotland: Alexander, Smith, Beattie, Corsie, Mitchell, Weir, Little, Evans (Arnot, 83), Cuthbert, Emslie (Brown, 46), Ross (Clelland, 74)
Unused substitutes: Love, Lynn, Howard, Murray
Belarus: Voskobovich, Urazaeva, Yushko, Novikava, Shcherbachenia, Kubichnaya, Linnik, Shuppo, Slesarchik, Kozyupa, Olkhovik
Unused substitutes: Lutskevich, Duben, Kovalchuk, Nikolaenko, Karachun, Kazakevich