Scotland 3—0 Ukraine.

John McGinn scored a seventieth minute goal, and substitute Lyndon Dykes added two more headed goals from fellow substitute Ryan Fraser’s corners which were whipped into the box. Scotland were outclassed by Ukraine at Hampden 112 days ago in the World-Cup Playoff.  But it was Ukraine outclassed and outmuscled here.

Scotland went with three at the back last time. An extra man in mid-field, where they lost the battle last time. No Oleksandr Zinchenko who was out injured. He bossed the game in the last match, and made it easier for Scotland to gain a foothold. Here it was 4-4-2 for traditionalists.

And it was Scotland that created most of the chances. Nathan Patterson had to go off after twenty minutes injured. He’d set up a chance for Ryan Christie and sent a ball into the box McGinn got his head to. Aaron Hickey came on and settled in to have an equally good game. Mkyhaylo Mudryk was seen as the danger man, but after a bright start, he saw little of the ball and created even less.

 Valeriy Bondar was yellow carded ten minutes before half-time for fouling Che Adams. Steve Clarke had the touchline official’s ear. It was arguable whether he was the last man. And equally whether it was a goal-scoring opportunity. Taking out, is perhaps the right way to describe it. The tackle alone merited red.

Adams led the line well. He’d been played in by Tierney in the first-half but his shot was too near the keeper. Like Lyndon Dykes, he had two headed opportunities in less than a minute, in a second-half in which Scotland increasingly dominated. One off the top of the bar. Another saved by the keeper.

Stuart Armstrong also had a hat-trick of opportunities. And we’d have expected him to score one goal, maybe two or three. Despite his profligacy, his energy and speed complimented McGregor’s and kept the ball moving.

When Scotland needs a goal, it’s usually Clydebank man John McGinn who grabs it. He’d no right to get to the ball but he’s small and stocky. He uses his arse to roll defenders and when he did so in the box to open up space, the ball was always going to end up in the net.

Fraser and Dykes came on. Adams and Tierney off.  Steve Clarke could do no wrong. He not only invigorated the Scotland attack. He added goals. Fraser even found time to cut in and have a pop at goal himself just before the end. It was one of those nights. Scotland even goes top of the group. I know what you’re thinking. It’ll never last. We’re Scotland after all. But they’ll be days like this.  

Scotland 3—2 Israel

Watching Scotland is a duty, rather than a pleasure. This game was the exception to the general rule that we play Israel every other game and snatch a bore draw. I’ve only ever been to Hampden once for a Scotland game. Needless to say Russia beat us. I remember ex-Scotland manager Craig Levein was in the team. That’s about it. Steve Clarke went against the grain and sent out an attacking Scottish team. Up top, he played Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes.

Lyndon Dykes missed a penalty, just before half-time to level the score at 2—2. It was identical to the penalty he scored against Austria. And anybody that watched that one winced, but we struck lucky in that qualifier.

Ex-Hibernian goalkeeper, Ofir Marciano who has a habit of making penalty saves, will mark that one down as one his granny would have caught.

Scotland were a goal down in the first five minutes. We had started well with long balls into Dykes and Adams, forcing the Israeli defence to sit in. Nir Bitton, six-foot-five, but as much chance of winning a ball in the air against any of these forwards as Julie Andrews climbing every mountain and becoming a nun in The Sound of Music. Austin MacPhee, Scotland’s new attacking coach at free-kicks, corners and throw-ins, had Tierney using a towel to dry the ball before flinging it long into the box. Inexplicably, Dykes, who you’d imagine would want to on the end of these long throw-ins, started taking throw-ins on the other side.  The Celtic defender and makeshift midfielder is good at playing simple balls beyond the Scotland midfield into the strikers.

Nathan Patterson, in for Stephen O’Donnell, was poor in the first-half, and a bit better in the second-half. He kept giving the ball away. And we’re often reminded you get punished at this level.

Solomon robbed him of the ball wide. Ex-Celt Jack Hendry brought down Zahavi twenty yards out.

PSV striker, Zahavi lifted it up and over the wall. Co-commentator, Ally McCoist, rhapsodised about what a wonderful free-kick it was, leaving our keeper, Craig Gordon, with no chance. It was a good goal, but perhaps a better keeper might have saved it.

Scotland’s equaliser was of the Robertson and Tierney variety. Just over thirty minutes gone. They held more than their own down the left, while on the right wing, Patterson and McTominay were slack in possession and turned far too easily. Robertson’s lay off at the edge of the box found John McGinn. He bent it into the top corner. This really was of the keeper having no chance school.

Israel went up the park and regained their lead in the next attack, two minutes later. This was of the Celtic school of defending. Hendry on the wrong side of the attacker. It comes off the Israeli player’s head. Gordon scoops the ball up into the air, which was poor goalkeeping. But equally, several Israeli players are ready to pounce. Dabbur from two-yard can hardly miss and pokes it home.

Scotland’s support deflated with that half-time penalty miss from twelve-yards after Billy Gilmour is brought down inside the box. In the second-half, Scotland dominated the ball, with McGregor, McGinn and Gilmour, in particular, picking the right passes.

Patterson upped his game, but went down far too easily in the Israel box after five minutes looking for another penalty and was lucky not to be booked. McGinn was booked for wiping out Soloman, after Scotland’s go-to man, lost the ball.

On the quarter-hour mark, Tierney whipped a ball into the box. Dykes gets in front of his marker and studs the ball into the net. The referee is quick to give it as a foul and book Dykes. The equaliser is chalked off. One acronym, VAR. He has a look and the goal is given. 2—2 and half-an-hour to go, Scotland in the ascendency. The question being asked by the drunk and sober was can we win it?   Being sober, I doubted it.  

Zahavi, for example, once again got in behind a static defence, only for his goal to be chopped off by VAR. VAR turned out to be our best defender, but having so much of the ball we limited their chances.

Patterson, for example, did what he was brought into the team to do and attacked their defence and got to the bye-line. Adams was waiting for his cut back at the back post. He remained waiting.

Then Dykes, who could easily have had a hat-trick, had one of those balls he’s got to score from. That’s co-commentator, Ally McCoist’s words, not mine. Tierney pinged it in, the QPR strike is above his marker with enough pace from the ball for him to guide it into the net. He headed it straight at Marciano.

John McGinn, who scored a wonder goal, missed what for him would have been even more of a sitter. Ryan Christie, who came on for Adams, picked him out. From ten-yards he can’t find the net.

That looks about it. Six-minutes added time—Fergie time, and he was in attendance, in the stands, giving conspiracy theorist some slack to play with—and Manchester United player McTominay ghosts in at the back post to chest the ball home from a Jack Hendry flick on. I rarely enjoy a Scotland game. The last time Leigh Griffiths scored two late free kicks against England and Celtic keeper, Joe Hart. There was still enough time for England to grab a draw. Here there wasn’t. Great game. Great win. (Whisper it, terrible defending).

Can we beat the Faroes? Can we finish second in this group? Only if we go back to being boring old Scotland and dragging things out to our opponents concede. Safe to say, Dykes will no longer be taking Scotland penalties or Stephen Clarke’s an Englishman. Cue the QPR striker stepping up in our next match? Possibly.