Scotland 2-0 Armenia: Anthony Ralston and Scott McKenna open their international accounts
Faced with a shortened timetable, supporters eager to catch the last train from Hampden were urged to leave before the final whistle.
Patiently, Scotland did their part by putting the game to bed before Mount Florida’s 8.46 left the platform.
After the bitter pill of a World Cup trip to Ukraine, the victory in the opening game of the Nations League felt medicinal. Facing three games in six days, Steve Clarke made six changes to the team, which failed to show up last week.
Scotland bounced back from heartbreak last week to record victory against Armenia
Anthony Ralston marked his first start in Scotland by claiming his first goal after 28 minutes
The game effectively ended when defender Scott McKenna (R) extended the celebration
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER REVIEWS
Scotland (3-4-3): Gordon 7; Souttar 7, Hendry 7, McKenna 7.5; Ralston 8 (Patterson 76), McGinn 7, McGregor 7, Robertson 7 (Hickey 76); Armstrong 7 (McTominay 76), Adams 6.5 (Brown 87), Christie 6.5 (Stewart 87)
Subs not used: Clark, Kelly, Hanley, Gilmour, Cooper, Turnbull, Campbell
goals: Ralston 28, McKenna 40
Armenia (4-4-1-1): Yurchenko; Hambartsumyan, Haroyan, Mikoyan, A Hovhannisyan; H Hovhannisyan 4 (Voskanyan 46), Grigoryan 4 (Wbeymar 46), Spertsyan (Udo 71), Barseghyan; Bayramyan (Dashyan 89); Adamyan 4 (Bichakhchyan 46)
Subs not used: Babayan, Harutyunyan, Avagyan, Margaryan, Buchnev, R. Mkrtchyan, S. Mkrtchyan
Bookings: Haroyan, Wbeymar, Spertsyan
Referee: Sebastian Gishamer 6.5
Anthony Ralston marked his first start in Scotland by claiming his first goal after 28 minutes. The game was essentially over when Nottingham Forest defender Scott McKenna extended the celebration of promotion to the English Premier League by claiming his first attack in dark blue before half time.
A combination of the VAR, the inspired goalkeeping of visiting keeper David Yurchenko and the woodwork prevented the Scots from collecting the score that deserved a dominant display.
This was Scotland’s first-ever meeting with Armenia, the country currently ranked 92nd in the world rankings. 53 places up in 39th place, expectations of a comfortable win were unaffected by the Nations League’s unexpected victory over the Republic of Ireland in Yerevan.
It begs the question how badly the Irish must have played to lose to a side devoid of an ounce of attacking ambition or ingenuity. Where Stephen Kenny’s team can always mention the intense heat, a rainy night in Glasgow offered no excuse for a Scotland team suffering from Ukraine’s disappointment.
And the win for Oleksandr Petrakov’s team in Dublin increases the chances of the two countries fighting again for a coveted place in the Nations League play-offs.
Six changes to the team, which lost 3-1 to Ukraine, have refreshed things. Ralston, in particular, presented an attacking threat that should have caused a breakthrough for Scotland long before the Celtic fullback marked his first international start with a goal.
Ralston was busy with everything. After five minutes, he returned a cross from captain Andy Robertson, a controlled attempt by Stuart Armstrong over the post. Minutes later, Ralston skipped past Barseghyan’s challenge on the right and hit a fierce ball in front of the goal.
The captain landed at the feet of Liverpool defender Robertson and the captain’s thumping low drive went to the bottom corner until goalkeeper David Yurchenko produced a brilliant fingertip save.
Ralston sent the ball through the keeper’s face into the far corner of the net for 1-0
Notch for his marker McKenna fired a downward header into the net for 2-0′
McKenna Thought He Scored Another Goal After Ramping Jack Hendry’s Header Into An Empty Net
However, after the referee was warned for a VAR check for offside, the goal was disallowed
Armenia’s lack of offensive ambition was devastating. There were times in a siege in the first half when the most advanced player in front of the visitors was still only 30 yards from his own goal.
Similar to one of these games at Parkhead of Ibrox, where SPFL cannon fodder began a damage reduction exercise, Armenia set up their low block and invited Scotland to come through.
The deadlock was broken after 28 minutes, closing an impressive adjustment to international football for Ralston.
The revival of the Parkhead fullback under Ange Postecoglou was quite the spectacle and the renaissance continued as he muffled Armstrong’s looping cross with his head towards the back post and sent the ball back through keeper Yurchenko’s face into the far corner of the ball. just before 1-0.
The goal offered a reward to the nearly 40,000 crowd that denied a Scotrail fiasco and an unappealing opponent to face the Glasgow elements. As the rain fell down at the National Stadium, Scotland began to enjoy themselves. Their movement was sometimes excellent.
Thanks to Andy Robertson’s thumping low drive, David Yurchenko produced a brilliant fingertip save
Ryan Christie completed a knockdown from Che Adams high over the bar with a spectacular effort, but the second goal was on the way.
Scott McKenna made his sixth international appearance and became the second player in a dark blue shirt to break his international duck five minutes before half time. A few inches here and there and he had scored two before halftime.
The goal he *got* came from a great corner from John McGinn. A physical unit, the former Aberdeen defender, is difficult to master and Armenia could not. Nicking for his marker McKenna fired a downward header into the net for 2-0.
He thought he had scored another goal in overtime. Ramping a Jack Hendry header into an empty net Austrian referee Sebastian Gishamer was warned for a VAR check for offside. The goal was disallowed and confirmed by replays which also showed one of the Armenian players picking up a bottle and throwing it – from a distance – at the Austrian assistant referee.
Scotland would have settled for a two-goal lead at half-time before a ball was kicked. Against a disappointing opponent, they could have easily doubled that number.
Che Adams was pushed out trying to make room for a blocked attack on target
Armenia coach Joaquin Caparros made a triple substitution at half time. He could have changed eight or nine and made no real difference. Promoted from Pool C after winning their Nations League group two years ago, Armenia was a poor old team. One of the substitutes was Vahan Bichakhchyan and he managed to create the first real threat to the Scottish defence.
The striker lost a wonderful opportunity when he raced a long ball and outsmarted a skidding Jack Hendry. With a clear run on target, indecision seized him and he was startled by the imposing figure of John Souttar rushing toward him. Moments later, the attacker created space for a gap on goal, which gave Craig Gordon a save. Comfortable enough, it was the Scotland goalkeeper’s first meaningful engagement.
Tony Ralston’s first start in Scotland ended in a rousing ovation with fifteen minutes to go. The opening goal, along with captain Andy Robertson and Southampton midfielder Armstrong, gave way to Nathan Patterson, Aaron Hickey and Scott McTominay.
While conditions in the closing stages were almost biblical, Scotland’s prayers for a third goal went unanswered. It was not for the will to try. Ryan Christie’s stoppage for Che Adams saw the striker crowding as he tried to clear space for a blocked attack on goal.
Yurchenko then tapped a thunderous left foot attack from John McGinn on the crossbar
Dublin on Saturday will be followed by another meeting with Armenia in Yerevan on Tuesday
Goalkeeper Yurchenko, meanwhile, made his second brilliant stop of the evening when he tapped a thunderous left foot punch from John McGinn on the crossbar. The wood is still shaking.
The first of three Nations League games in six days meant Steve Clarke focused on preserving fading energies. Sunderland striker Ross Stewart made his debut as a late substitute alongside Stoke winger Jacob Brown.
Dublin on Saturday will be followed by another meeting with Armenia in Yerevan on Tuesday, where the heat could pose a bigger threat than the opposition.