SCOTLAND 3 UKRAINE 0
SCOTLAND soared to the top of their UEFA Nations League table after an astonishing evening at Hampden.
Lyndon Dykes came off the substitutes’ bench in the 76th minute and scored two replica raging headers in seven minutes to flatten the Ukrainians.
Skipper John McGinn opened the scoring in the 70th minute as the Scots took the game by the scruff of the neck after the turnaround to earn all three points.
UP IN THE AIR…Callum McGregor euludes a tackle from Ukraine’s Taras Stepanenko.
Celtic captain Callum McGregor was calmness personified in the middle of the pitch as he stitched play together, accepting the ball, delivering crisp passes, making space, breaking up play and proving to be impossible for the visitors to pin down.
It was a quietly effective showing from the Hoops anchorman who took his usual role in a Scots team that started with FIVE former Celtic players – Craig Gordon, Jack Hendry, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Christie.
The game was played at an even pace in the opening half-hour with the home midfield coming more into the encounter as the minutes ticked by.
The visitors, as they had done at the same venue in June when they won 3-1 in the World Cup play-off match, attempted to pick off Steve Clarke’s men with long balls over the top to emphasise the blistering speed of left-sided Mikhaylo Mudryk who scored Shakhtar Donetsk’s equaliser against the Hoops in last week’s Champions League 1-1 draw in Warsaw.
Christie set up an early opportunity with a sweeping low ball from the left, but Che Adams was just too late to capitalise on the opportunity.
Powerhouse McGinn then flicked a header wide of the keeper’s right-hand post and that was followed by Christie putting one over the bar after good service from Armstrong.
NUMBER ONE…John McGinn swivels and fires a left-foot drive low into the opponents’ net.
NUMBER TWO…Lyndon Dykes rises to a left-wing corner-kick to thump in a header.
NUMBER THREE…Lyndon Dykes stages an action replay to nod in his second and Scotland’s third goal.
Nathan Patterson limped off in the 26th minute to be replaced by Aaron Hickey as the one-time Celtic Boys’ Club prospect was tasked with curbing the threat of the lively Mudryk.
McGinn blew a good chance in the 38th minute with a bad first touch after a good pass from Scott McTominay. His final effort cleared the bar by about 10 yards.
Valery Bondar somehow escaped a red card just before half-time following an assault on Adams that sent the striker hurtling to the ground. It was the sort of stuff more associated with Murrayfield and it looked as though the defender would be banished, but Italian referee Maurizio Mariani believed a yellow card sufficed.
The Hampden crowd begged to differ and booed the Ukrainian’s every touch from then until the final whistle.
CAPTAIN’S PART…John McGinn salutes the Tartan Army after his breakthrough goal.
On the hour mark, Armstrong squandered a brilliant chance to get the breakthrough goal when he wildly blazed over the bar from eight yards after being set up by a cute backheel from McTominay.
Three minutes later, Adams smacked the crossbar with a header from a McGinn right-wing cross and 12 seconds later was denied by the outstretched left boot of Anatolyi Trebin who rode his luck just as he had done against Ange Postecoglou’s men a week ago.
Armstrong had another awful miss in the 69th minute when he sent a header wide of the post following a left-wing delivery from Adams. The ex-Celt really should have hit the target at the very least.
However, his blushes were spared when McGinn latched on to a recound off a Tierney pass, took a touch and then lashed an unstoppable low drive past Trebin into the net for the breakthrough strike in the 70th minute.
HAMPDEN HURRAHS…Callum McGregor, Kenny McLean, Craig Gordon and John McGinn acknowledge the delighted Scotland fans.
Six minutes later, Dykes and Ryan Fraser were sent on for Armstrong and Adams and it proved to be an inspired double substitution from boss Clarke.
Four minutes after coming on, Fraser sent over a left-wing corner-kick and the Queens Park Rangers hitman rose with perfect timing to thunder a header past the benused keeper from eight yards.
And they combined again in the 87th minute with an identical move and once again Trebin was tasked with fishing the ball from the back of his net.
Just before the third goal, Greg Taylor and Kenny McLean replaced Tierney and Christie.
Now it’s all eyes on Hampden on Saturday evening when the Republic of Ireland visit.
TEAM: Gordon; Patterson (sub: Hickey 26), McKenna, Hendry, Tierney (sub: Taylor 85); Armstrong (sub: Fraser 76), McTominay, McGregor, McGinn; Adams (sub: Dykes 76) and Christie (sub: McLean 85).