Shaun Maloney's sublime free-kick gave Scotland a late win against Macedonia, taking Gordon Strachan's side to fourth in their World Cup qualifying group.

Ikechi Anya had earlier marked his first international start by putting Scotland in front, shooting into the far corner from a tight angle.

However, the initially lacklustre hosts stirred and Jovan Kostovski equalised.

But Wigan midfielder Maloney curled a 25-yard set-piece into the top corner to give Scotland a second Group A win.

Goalkeeper Tome Pacovski misses kick-off in Scotland game

The three points take Scotland above their opponents at the Philip II Arena and Wales, who lost 3-0 at home to Serbia.

Both the frequency and swiftness of Scotland's attacks on a visibly scarred and bumpy pitch at the Philip II Arena in Skopje will encourage the Tartan Army, who witnessed a far less threatening Macedonia team from the one which passed in triangles around their team at Hampden Park almost a year ago to the day.

Watford's Anya was constantly the outlet on the left-hand side and he regularly made light work of the attentions of home right-back Daniel Georgievski, despite having to deal with what sounded like ominous booing of the Watford winger by home fans.

He answered those perfectly by latching onto Barry Bannan's through ball and drilling across Macedonia goalkeeper Tome Pacovski to give his country the lead.

Fifa 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group A

Played Won Points

Belgium

8

7

22

Croatia

8

5

17

Serbia

9

3

11

Scotland

9

2

8

Macedonia

8

2

7

Wales

8

2

6

That only shook the hosts into action, though, and substitute goalkeeper Matt Gilks had to be at his best to keep out a string of efforts from the likes of Mirko Ivanovski and Adis Jahovic.

The pressure eventually told when Kostovski cleverly touched a cross from the left around the onrushing Gilks before calmly tapping into an empty net.

Before the match, an away point would have been welcomed by Scotland, who have struggled in this World Cup qualifying campaign.

However, when James McArthur was fouled on the edge of the opponents' box with two minutes of normal time remaining, Maloney seized his chance to execute a perfect free-kick from distance.

Anya's encouraging array of high and low deliveries into the box often failed to find a team-mate, but Steven Naismith, playing up front instead of Leigh Griffiths, was unlucky to head one of the 25-year-old's crosses over the bar in the first-half.

Everton's Naismith went on to create the best chance of the first half for captain Scott Brown, who ran into the box and watched his lifted effort get diverted away from danger by Pacovski in goal.

What do the stats say?

  • Scotland had 13 shots on goal compared to Macedonia's nine.
  • Gordon Strachan's side had 58% of the possession in the first half, but only 37% after the break.

In comical manner, Pacovski stayed in the limelight straight after the break when referee Fredy Fautrel immediately halted the second half, just two seconds in, upon realising the Macedonian stopper had not yet returned to the pitch.

Cedomir Janevski's side looked far more menacing in the second period, with Gilks, on for David Marshall, making good diving saves on three or four occasions.

But Macedonia's late flurry was not enough to make a Scotland win seem unjust. Strachan's men can take heart from this and stride forward with greater confidence ahead of the final match of a dead campaign against Croatia at Hampden on 15 October.

Lineup, Bookings (5) & Substitutions (6)

FYR Macedonia

  • 01 Pacovski
  • 02 Georgievski
  • 04 Noveski
  • 06 Sikov Booked
  • 13 Ristovski
  • 08 Babunski (Tasevski - 41' )
  • 20 Stjepanovic Booked
  • 07 Trickovski
  • 09 Jahovic (Kostovski - 82' )
  • 10 Pandev
  • 11 Trajkovski (Ivanovski - 56' )

Substitutes

  • 12 Naumovski
  • 23 Darko Tofiloski
  • 03 Ivanovski
  • 05 Grncarov
  • 15 Mojsov
  • 18 Lazevski
  • 14 Randjelovic
  • 16 Gligorov
  • 22 Tasevski
  • 17 Kostovski
  • 21 Ivanovski

Scotland

  • 01 Marshall (Gilks - 45' )
  • 02 Hutton
  • 03 Whittaker Booked (Wallace - 79' )
  • 04 Martin
  • 05 G Hanley
  • 07 Mulgrew Booked
  • 06 Maloney
  • 08 Brown
  • 10 Bannan (McArthur - 77' )
  • 11 Anya Booked
  • 09 Naismith

Substitutes

  • 12 Gilks
  • 21 Samson
  • 15 Wallace
  • 23 Greer
  • 13 Conway
  • 18 McArthur
  • 19 Bryson
  • 22 Thomson
  • 14 Mackie
  • 17 Griffiths
  • 20 McCormack
Ref: Fautrel
Att: 16,000

Match Stats

Shots

11 12

On target

4 4

Corners

5 2

Fouls

14 6

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +3:54 Full time

Full Time The final whistle goes and the game is over.

90:00 +2:52

Lee Wallace takes a fantastic shot and missed to the right of the target.

90:00 +2:19

Steven Naismith is ruled offside. Vance Sikov restarts play with the free kick.

90:00 +1:42

Daniel Georgievski challenges Ikechi Anya unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Charlie Mulgrew.

88:42

Header at goal by Jovan Kostovski goes right of the post.

87:49 Goal scored

Goal! - Shaun Maloney - Macedonia 1 - 2 Scotland Free kick scored by Shaun Maloney. FYR Macedonia 1-2 Scotland.

86:53 Booking

Booking

86:43

James McArthur fouled by Vance Sikov, the ref awards a free kick. Booking for Vance Sikov.

85:39

Free kick awarded for a foul by Mirko Ivanovski on Ikechi Anya. Lee Wallace takes the free kick.

83:00

Assist by Goran Pandev.

83:00 Goal scored

Goal! - Jovan Kostovski - Macedonia 1 - 1 Scotland Jovan Kostovski slots the ball left footed into the goal. FYR Macedonia 1-1 Scotland.

81:22 Substitution

Substitution Jovan Kostovski replaces Adis Jahovic.

80:36

The referee blows for offside against Steven Naismith. Vance Sikov restarts play with the free kick.

79:58

The offside flag is raised against Mirko Ivanovski. Matt Gilks restarts play with the free kick.

78:31

Free kick taken by Vance Sikov.

78:31 Substitution

Substitution Lee Wallace is brought on as a substitute for Steven Whittaker.

78:31

Unfair challenge on Vance Sikov by Steven Naismith results in a free kick.

78:00

Mirko Ivanovski takes a shot.

76:22 Substitution

Substitution James McArthur comes on in place of Barry Bannan.

76:22

Shaun Maloney takes a shot and went wide of the right hand post.

75:35

Daniel Georgievski delivers the ball. Ivan Trickovski has an effort at goal and missed to the left of the net.

74:34 Booking

Booking

74:26

The referee blows for offside. Ikechi Anya goes into the book for unsporting behaviour. Free kick taken by Tome Pacovski.

73:32

Mirko Ivanovski takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Fine finger tip save by Alan Hutton.Corner taken by Mirko Ivanovski.

72:16

Shot by Mirko Ivanovski. Alan Hutton dives and deflects the ball away.Corner from the left by-line taken by Ivan Trickovski.

70:37

The referee shows Steven Whittaker a yellow card for time wasting.

70:37 Booking

Booking

70:36 Booking

Booking

70:18

Shaun Maloney fouled by Ostoja Stjepanovic, the ref awards a free kick. Ostoja Stjepanovic goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour. Free kick taken by Steven Whittaker.

69:41

Ivan Trickovski takes a shot. Matt Gilks safely holds on.

68:53

The referee gives a free kick against Steven Naismith for handball. Vance Sikov restarts play with the free kick.

65:44 Booking

Booking

65:40

Foul by Charlie Mulgrew on Ivan Trickovski, free kick awarded. The referee cautions Charlie Mulgrew for unsporting behaviour. Free kick taken by Ostoja Stjepanovic.

62:03

Corner taken by Ivan Trickovski. Clearance by Alan Hutton.

60:39

Foul by Steven Whittaker on Mirko Ivanovski, free kick awarded. Daniel Georgievski restarts play with the free kick.

58:49

The assist for the goal came from Barry Bannan.

58:49 Goal scored

Goal! - Ikechi Anya - Macedonia 0 - 1 Scotland Ikechi Anya grabs a goal with a left foot finish. FYR Macedonia 0-1 Scotland.

57:57

Mirko Ivanovski takes a weak shot and missed to the left of the net.

56:51

Ikechi Anya takes the chance to get an effort at goal and missed to the right of the net.

55:34 Substitution

Substitution Aleksandar Trajkovski leaves the field to be replaced by Mirko Ivanovski.

55:34

Aleksandar Trajkovski produces a cross that goes out of play.

51:58

Adis Jahovic crosses the ball. Clearance made by Alan Hutton.

50:56

Darko Tasevski takes a shot. Matt Gilks gets their feet to the ball .

48:38

Unfair challenge on Steven Naismith by Ostoja Stjepanovic results in a free kick. Steven Whittaker restarts play with the free kick.

47:46

Adis Jahovic concedes a free kick for a foul on Scott Brown. Steven Whittaker restarts play with the free kick.

46:27

Steven Whittaker fouled by Aleksandar Trajkovski, the ref awards a free kick. Steven Whittaker restarts play with the free kick.

45:01

The game restarts for the second half.

45:00 +1:02 Half time

Half Time The referee blows for half time.

45:00 +0:15

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Adis Jahovic by Grant Hanley. Vance Sikov restarts play with the free kick.

45:00 Substitution

Substitution (Scotland) makes a substitution, with Matt Gilks coming on for David Marshall.

44:21

Foul by Vance Sikov on Steven Naismith, free kick awarded. Charlie Mulgrew crosses the ball in from the free kick. Tome Pacovski punches the ball.

43:41

Adis Jahovic takes a shot and went wide left of the goal.

42:23

Ikechi Anya takes a shot. Tome Pacovski turns it away with a finger tip save. Corner from the right by-line taken by Barry Bannan. Russell Martin takes a shot. The ball is crossed by Ikechi Anya. Tome Pacovski safely holds on.

40:40

Russell Martin restarts play with the free kick.

40:40 Substitution

Substitution Darko Tasevski is brought on as a substitute for David Babunski.

40:40

Unfair challenge on Charlie Mulgrew by Goran Pandev results in a free kick.

37:15

The ball is delivered by Stefan Ristovski. David Marshall catches the ball.

34:03

Adis Jahovic challenges Russell Martin unfairly and gives away a free kick. Russell Martin restarts play with the free kick.

32:05

A cross is delivered by Steven Whittaker. Tome Pacovski catches the ball.

31:32

Scott Brown takes a shot. Tome Pacovski blocks the ball.

29:02

David Babunski gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Steven Naismith. Charlie Mulgrew takes the free kick.

28:16

The offside flag is raised against Shaun Maloney. Vance Sikov takes the free kick.

26:22

Corner taken by Barry Bannan from the right by-line. Grant Hanley gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stefan Ristovski. Nikolce Noveski restarts play with the free kick.

26:02

Alan Hutton takes a shot. Clearance made by Vance Sikov.

25:06

Cross/shot by Ikechi Anya goes over the bar.

21:33

Free kick awarded for a foul by Grant Hanley on Adis Jahovic. Free kick taken by David Babunski.

20:36

Vance Sikov challenges Steven Naismith unfairly and gives away a free kick. Shaun Maloney crosses the ball in from the free kick. Tome Pacovski catches the ball.

17:58

Charlie Mulgrew takes a shot.

16:35

Goran Pandev takes the chance to get an effort at goal. David Marshall catches the ball.

15:14

Handball by Scott Brown. David Babunski crosses the ball in from the free kick.

10:55

Free kick awarded for a foul by Stefan Ristovski on Alan Hutton. Free kick crossed by Barry Bannan. Tome Pacovski safely holds on.

6:25

Nikolce Noveski challenges Steven Naismith unfairly and gives away a free kick. Barry Bannan restarts play with the free kick.

4:47

Shot by Steven Naismith went wide of the left-hand post.

3:16

Corner from the right by-line taken by Goran Pandev. David Marshall catches the ball.

2:48

Corner taken short by Goran Pandev.

0:53

The referee blows for offside. Vance Sikov restarts play with the free kick.

0:00

The match gets underway.

Live data and text provided by our data suppliers