GLASGOW: Scotland boosted their bid for Nations League promotion and gained a measure of revenge over Ukraine with an emphatic 3-0 win after a double from substitute Lyndon Dykes and another goal from captain John McGinn at Hampden Park on Wednesday.
Steve Clarke’s side dominated a one-sided clash but had to wait until the last 20 minutes for their goals as Dykes came off the bench and scored with two towering headers in the space of seven minutes after McGinn had given Scotland the lead with a fine left-footed finish.
The win sent Scotland top of League B Group 1 on nine points from four games as they chase promotion to League A, with Ukraine two points behind in second.
Scotland were beaten 3-1 by Ukraine in an emotionally-charged World Cup play-off at Hampden Park in June.
Their failure to qualify for a first World Cup since 1998 still hurts Clarke’s players, so this was a cathartic result, albeit one they would rather have had four months ago.
Ukraine’s hopes of providing a rare moment of levity in their war-torn nation by reaching the World Cup were eventually dashed as they lost to Wales in the play-off final.
A shadow of the team that beat Scotland in the playoffs, Ukraine provided little resistance as Scotland made it three wins from their four Nations League matches.
While the competition is derided by some, Scotland are well aware of the Nations League’s importance after securing a Euro 2020 play-off through winning their Nations League group.
In their final group games, Scotland host the Republic of Ireland on Saturday before travelling to Ukraine on September 27.
“I’m pleased for the players. They suffered in the summer more than anybody,” Clarke said. “We did a lot of work in the short period we had, a lot of it very boring work in the lecture room, and they obviously took it all on board. They were excellent. Sometimes you need to respond in football and it’s nice that we’ve responded in this way.”
The hosts settled into the game after a scrappy opening and dominated proceedings as Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong both went close to giving them a deserved lead.
Scotland were guilty of squandering a spate of chances after the break, with Armstrong’s miss from close range followed by Che Adams rattling the crossbar before McGinn and Dykes sealed the points with three well-taken goals.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022