Scotland moved to the top of their Nations League group on Saturday evening with a 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland.
An enthralling affair saw the visitors take the lead through John Egan, before a rip-roaring second half from the Scots saw goals from Jack Hendry and Ryan Christie to secure the three points.
It looked like first blood to Ireland when Troy Parrott thundered home 11 minutes in, but the offside flag that everyone was waiting for came up eventually to rule the strike out.
There was no ruling out Egan’s thunderous volley soon after, however. A corner led to some penalty box mayhem from which the Sheffield United man profited and fired home midway through the first half to put Ireland ahead.
Scotland saw plenty of the ball after the goal, ending the half with around 60% possession, but Ireland stayed in shape and continued to repel anything that came them way in the first 45 minutes.
Steve Clarke’s team talk clearly worked wonders as Scotland were level just four minutes after the restart. Christie’s cross found Hendry, whose header was arrowed perfectly into the side netting.
Matt Doherty fluffed a nice chance to put Ireland straight back in front, cutting inside from the right and lashing his strike high and wide. Parrott then broke on the counter and really should have scored, but Craig Gordon did well to keep it out.
It seemed as though Scotland were going to take control of the game but Ireland grew back into things and took the sting out of proceedings really well.
However, with ten minutes to play, Scotland were awarded a penalty as Scott McTominay’s header hit the arm of Alan Browne, and up stepped Christie to fire the hosts into the lead.
Tempers began to flare as the clock ticked down. There were off-ball clashes and a number of calls for a penalty which went unanswered, with both teams clearly feeling the nerves of the situation heading into the final moments.
Scotland did their best to wind down the clock, and wind up their opponents, and it was Clarke’s men who were celebrating when all was said and done.
GK: Craig Gordon – 6/10 – Some unconvincing passing but made up for that with an excellent save to deny Parrott early in the second half.
RB: Aaron Hickey – 7/10 – Flew forward at every opportunity and made a real impact when he got there. Forced off with an injury early in the second half.
CB: Jack Hendry – 7/10 – An excellent goal, some impressive blocks and a handful of poor decisions. Eventual evening for Hendry.
CB: Scott McKenna – 5/10 – Didn’t cover himself in glory for the opening goal and had a few more sloppy moments.
LB: Kieran Tierney – 5/10 – Picked up a head injury shortly before half-time. Tried to carry on but was told to come off.
DM: Scott McTominay – 5/10 – Slow on the ball and poor when passing. Had a few nice moments but generally not good enough.
DM: Callum McGregor – 4/10 – Not his finest showing for Ireland’s opener. Watched the ball drop instead of making a clearance. Did his best to give away a few more goals as well.
RM: Stuart Armstrong – 4/10 – Couldn’t get anything going at all. A really disappointing showing.
AM: John McGinn – 5/10 – Involved in a whole lot as he earned his 50th cap but didn’t really make much of an impact.
LM: Ryan Christie – 7/10 – A poor first half but shone in the second with an excellent assist and a classy penalty.
ST: Lyndon Dykes – 6/10 – Really isolated in the first half but got far more involved when Scotland stepped things up after the break.
SUB: Greg Taylor (42′ for Tierney) – 7/10 – His width and attacking threat was a major part of Scotland’s improvement after the break.
SUB: Anthony Ralston (58′ for Hickey) – 6/10 – Didn’t look out of place but failed to match Hickey’s involvement.
SUB: Ryan Fraser (58′ for Armstrong) – 7/10 – Made a noticeable difference with his energy. Impressive on the ball as well.
SUB: Che Adams (85′ for Dykes) – N/A
SUB: Kenny McLean (85′ for Christie) – N/A
GK: Gavin Bazunu – 6/10 – A nice save to deny Fraser midway through the second half.
CB: Nathan Collins – 7/10 – Enjoyed watching Scotland try to play in the air. Threw himself at everything.
CB: John Egan – 7/10 – The same as Collins but with a tidy finish to add in. Really enjoyed his performance.
CB: Dara O’Shea – 6/10 – A brave selection in place of Shane Duffy and certainly justified that faith.
RM: Matt Doherty – 6/10 – An unreal clearance off the line. Saved an absolute certain goal with a brilliant diving header. Largely lacked match awareness but that was a moment of real class.
CM: Jason Knight – 6/10 – Held his own against players with far bigger reputations. Looks good enough for this level.
CM: Josh Cullen – 6/10 – Fortunate not be pick up four or five yellow cards, but when he wasn’t committing fouls, he was pulling the strings in midfield.
CM: Jayson Molumby – 7/10 – Played with such energy and aggression. Bullied Scotland’s midfield.
LM: James McClean – 7/10 – Really dangerous down the left. Some lovely crosses.
ST: Troy Parrott – 5/10 – Fluffed an excellent chance to put Ireland back ahead and was outshone by his strike partners.
ST: Michael Obafemi – 6/10 – A real threat on the counter. Would have stayed on over Parrott if he was fully fit.
SUB: Chiedozie Ogbene (60′ for Obafemi) – 6/10 – Looked electric after coming on. Scotland didn’t know how to deal with him. Influence faded as Ireland tired.
SUB: Seamus Coleman (76′ for Doherty) – 5/10 – Looked tired even though he wasn’t on that long.
SUB: Callum Robinson (76′ for Parrott) – 5/10 – Found it hard to get involved.
SUB: Alan Browne (76′ for Molumby) – 4/10 – Inexplicably went full Superman in the box to get his hand to McTominay’s header for the penalty. No need and ended up costing his side.
SUB: Robbie Brady (83′ for McClean) – N/A