Against Cyprus at home, Scott McTominay’s late double gave Scotland a convincing victory to start their Euro 2024 qualification campaign.
John McGinn’s close-range finish, his 16th goal for his country, was the reward for a commanding first-half performance.
With a precise strike in the 87th minute, substitute McTominay reduced the tension at Hampden.
The Manchester United midfielder then quickly added his second.
It was a job well done in that respect because it was a must-win game against the lowest-seeded team in Group A, who finished the game with 10 men after Nicholas Ioannou received a late red card.
But despite their first winning start to a Euro qualifying campaign since 2006, Scotland’s head coach is aware that they must still improve when top seeds Spain arrive on Tuesday.
Response and what occurred
The Tartan Army arrived at Hampden full of hope as the new qualifying campaign got underway.
They were rewarded with a commanding first-half performance in which they hardly ever felt threatened and relentlessly poked at the Cypriot defensive wall.
A bit more cutting edge in the crucial area, right in front of goal, was all that was missing. It continued throughout, with the outcome remaining ambiguous until McTominay took charge.
The goal of Scotland was evident. Attack Cyprus from the flanks, focusing on the left. Nevertheless, the first genuine danger came from the opposite side when Aaron Hickey moved into the area and, from the tightest of angles, forced goalkeeper Demetris Demetriou into a low save at his post.
The team of Clarke was cruising, at ease with the ball, and displaying an astonishing amount of control.
Stuart Armstrong’s pass to Andy Robertson, who expertly timed his run to stay just onside and cross first time, proved to be the key first goal’s location.
McGinn instinctively rushed to meet the ball as it rebounded perfectly into his path, and he finished from close range to surpass James McFadden’s all-time Scotland scoring record by one.
With the exception of a slip on the challenging surface at the edge of his area, debutant Angus Gunn in goal was scarcely bothered in what was essentially one-way traffic.
Che Adams nearly scored following a fantastic McGinn-Che Adams combination move, but his effort was deflected over and the unfortunate striker exited the game early in the second half with what appeared to be an injury.
The second half of the show dramatically declined, and a nagging suspicion that Cyprus could have stolen something crept in.
The best moment for Cyprus came when replacement Andronikos Kakoullis struck from a distance, but Gunn held on despite a deflection. Cyprus threw on forward players in the closing 10 minutes trying to accomplish just that.
Thanks to three of their own substitutes, Scotland finally reached its destination. Lyndon Dykes nodded on a cross that Ryan Christie had fired, and McTominay pounced on it to half-volley the goal.
When McTominay scored again, Hampden let out a huge roar and relief-inducing sigh as Robertson put the ball in his path and he calmly and easily put it home.