ALBANIA 1-2 SCOTLAND
Following on from their debut at the UEFA Women’s Euros in 2017, the team have now gone one step further to qualify for the biggest football competition of all, for the first time – all in Head Coach Shelley Kerr’s first campaign in charge.
Scotland entered the match knowing that should they better Switzerland’s result away to Poland they would qualify automatically, while a play-off spot would be secured should they at least draw.
Goals from Kim Little and Jane Ross saw the side overcome the Albanians in a dominant performance – with the jubilant players erupting into rapturous celebrations on the full-time whistle.
Shelley Kerr made two changes from the side that defeated Switzerland 2-1 on a famous night in Paisley with Jane Ross and Lizzie Arnot replacing Claire Emslie and Christie Murray.
On a warm Albanian night, on a dry pitch, Scotland started strongly and took the lead with nine minutes gone. A Lisa Evans cross found Lizzie Arnot who nodded the ball across to Kim Little and she smashed home a volley from the penalty spot.
Scotland looked in the mood and had numerous chances to double their lead in the first half.
Thursday night’s hero Erin Cuthbert was on fire again and was close to scoring when she smashed the ball from the edge of the box but her shot was saved along with Jane Ross’ rebound attempt.
The Chelsea forward also had two other first half chances when she blasted the ball over the bar following a good move and also went close to notching from a magnificent solo run.
The Albanian goalkeeper, Viona Rexhepi was in inspired form and she was equal to an Emma Mitchell blast from outside the box.
Scotland were to rue those missed opportunities at the break as Megi Doci made them pay before the half-time whistle by scoring against the run of play from inside the box beyond Lee Alexander.
Unusually, Emma Mitchell had a number of chances at the start of the second half, seeing a header go just wide shortly before smashing the upright from close range.
Scotland remained patient despite seeing chances go amiss and their reward arrived after 68 minutes when a Caroline Weir free-kick was met by Jen Beattie and allowed Jane Ross to nod home.
Shelley Kerr’s side continued to press to increase their advantage with Emslie and Beattie all going close.
With time running down, Scotland demonstrated excellent game management, controlling possession and ensuring that the Albanians did not threaten Lee Alexander’s net.
With the news that Switzerland had failed to beat Poland, the players knew that a place in France was theirs, with the celebrations at a milestone for Scotland set to continue long into the night.
Scotland head coach, Shelley Kerr:
“It’s not often I’m lost for words but I’m really emotional. The whole week has been draining, for the players and the staff but in my heart of hearts I genuinely believed that Poland would get something out the game against Switzerland and we’d beat Albania
“We’ve done it the hard way during the campaign but we’ve shown great maturity and determination to succeed.
“There are so many people to praise such as the clubs who have got all the players physically prepared to be such a great condition.
“These moments don’t come along too often so I’m absolutely ecstatic and it’ll take a while for it to sink in that we’re off to our first World Cup.”
Scotland captain, Rachel Corsie:
“At the final whistle it was hard to know what to do. It was just an incredibly surreal feeling. The girls deserve it as there’s been so many key moments in this campaign that have shown what we’re about.
“We need to enjoy that and we will because we deserve to.
“We were extremely disappointed to lose the goal before half-time as it was extremely sloppy and unnecessary, putting us under a little bit of pressure but that’s typical Scotland.
“We always felt comfortable in the game and we created more than enough chances to win it. We knew that second goal was coming and we believed that it would. We persevered and once we got it we controlled the game well.
“This is by far the best moment in my career. The World Cup is the pinnacle of football and to have the opportunity to go over there and be on that stage with the best teams in the world is going to be incredibly special.
“The Switzerland game shows how many fans are interested in the women’s national team so now it’s about building and growing over the course of time.
“When teams are winning and doing well, the fans want to support you so to get to two consecutive tournaments is huge and the World Cup is the biggest stage of all so I’m sure there will be a huge crowd over in France and that’s something for us to look forward to.
“I’m so incredibly happy for every single one of the girls who’ve played their part. We’ve been fantastic and now we’ve set ourselves a benchmark. There’s a unity about us that we maybe haven’t had in the past and we’ve added a lot of quality young players to create a really strong group.”
Albania: Rexhepi, Rrahmani (Captain), Hamidi (Maliqi, 73), Elezaj, Morina, Krasniqi, Doci, Gjini, Maksuti, Franja.
Unused substitutes: Raxhimi, Haziri, Curraj, Levandi, Lulaj, Mustafa.
Scotland: Alexander, Mitchell, Corsie (Captain), Beattie, Little, Weir, Evans, Ross, Howard (Arthur, 45), Cuthbert, Arnot (Emslie, 66).
Unused substitutes: Lynn, Love, Murray, Clelland, Fiona Brown