By Jay Mwamba
Scotland are up against the wall at London’s Wembley Stadium today after going down 2-0 to England in last Saturday’s first leg of their much hyped "Battle of Britain" Euro 2000 playoff.
Roy Keane’s Manchester United teammate Paul Scholes struck twice (18th, 42nd) to put the English in the driver’s seat ahead of the second leg.
The result means the Scots, who finished runners-up in Group 9, must win by at least a 3-1 margin to advance to the finals. Their coach, Craig Brown, said he thinks it’s possible because, according to him, his charges play better on the road.
"I admit we have a difficult task ahead of us, but if we get an early goal, we will be back in the tie and I think we can do it," Brown said a day after Scotland’s defeat.
"We have scored against France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Norway when we have played away — we are a very good counter-attacking team."
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But the Scots will be without striker Kevin Gallacher who received a booking that earned him a suspension for the return leg.
England manager Kevin Keegan was naturally delighted with his side’s victory. "We played fantastic. When I look through the team I thought everybody contributed," he said.
Denmark all but assured themselves of a place in the Euro 2000 finals after crushing 10-man Isr’l 5-0 in Tel Aviv.
The 1992 European champions scored through Jon Dahl Tomasson (2nd, 38th), Stig Toefting (67th), Martin Jorgensen (68th) and Brian Steen Nielsen (73rd).
Isr’l’s cause for today’s second leg in Copenhagen was not helped by the 58th-minute ejection of influential midfielder Haim Revivo.
Slovenia take a narrow 2-1 lead into today’s return fixture with Ukraine in Kiev after a breath-taking 50-yard strike by Milenko Acimov gave them the win against their short-handed opponents in Ljubljana last weekend.
Ukraine, who finished with nine men, had gone ahead through Andrei Shevchenko in the 33rd minute. But Zlatko Zahovic (53rd) and Acimov (84th) hit back for the home side.
Acimov’s effort was the goal of the playoffs. He intercepted a clearance from Ukrainian goalie Olexander Shovkovsky in the center circle and blasted the ball into an empty net.
To add insult to injury, Ukraine had defenders Dmitry Parfynov and Andriy Gusin sent off. Both will miss today’s match.