SAN MARINO 0 SCOTLAND 2
JOB done, two goals scored, none conceded and three points. It was more excruciating than enthralling, but Scotland are off the mark in the Euro 2020 qualifiers after their win in Rimini this evening.
It was a car crash against Kazakhstan on Thursday and it wasn’t spectacular against San Marino, but, at least, there was no banana skin on this occasion.
The Scots got off to the best possible start with a smart goal in the fourth minute, but they had to wait until the 74th minute before they could double the advantage and give the nation some breathing space.
Kenny McLean was on target with a neat header to settle the nerves after Andy Robertson and Ryan Fraser worked a quick corner-kick on the left.
The Bournemouth winger slung the ball into the box and McLean launched a header from 12 yards beyond the sprawling Elia Benetinni to his left.
Alex McLeish’s side were dominant against the nation ranked the lowest in the world with only one win in 115 outings.
In the 29th minute, a long diagonal ball from Scott McKenna was nodded down by Callum Paterson to Johnny Russell who slid a perfect pass into the tracks of Suart Armstrong running free in the penalty box.
He should have tucked it in a corner, but went for power and blasted his shot against Benedettini.
DREAM START…Kenny McLean (on ground, left) watches his header zoom into the net for the opener.
The rebound went straight to the ex-Celt, but once again he failed to hit the net when his return effort was touched round the post by the keeper for a corner-kick.
The Scots got a scare when David Bates was caught flat-footed with a pass inside him which was snapped onto by Adolfo Hursch. Scott Bain deserved great credit for forcing the forward to drag the ball wide and he fired into the sidenet.
In the 31st minute, Paterson rose to thump a header goalwards, but Benedetinni once more displayed his agility by throwing himself to the right to turn the ball aside.
It was the Scot’s last moment of action as he landed awkwardly on his ankle. He could not resume after treatment and Marc McNulty took his place in the 34th minute.
Scott McTominay replaced Callum McGregor in the 57th minute and James Forrest came on for Armstrong in the 71st minute and the Celtic winger set up the killer second goal.
Forrest scampered down the right before delivering a peach of a cross into the danger zone. McNulty dummied it and Russell took a nice touch to set himself up before thundering an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net.
The game ended with McNulty having a horrendous miss six yards from goal after being set up following another delightful cross from Forrest.
The on-loan Hibs attacker only had the keeper to beat, but sent his header spiralling wide of the far upright.
Thankfully, though, it wasn’t the story of Scotland’s night. The team got the two that mattered and at the end of the campaign they could be crucial.