Anthony Ralston and Scott McKenna scored their first international goals when Scotland beat Armenia in the opening match of the Nations League in Hampden.
A week after the agonizing World Cup defeat to Ukraine, Steve Clarke’s side were absolutely in control.
Headers from Ralston and McKenna made it 2-0 halfway after Stuart Armstrong and Andy Robertson came close.
John McGinn hit the crossbar late but the third goal did not come.
With the rain falling, Scotland created a series of chances in the first few minutes as Armstrong hit the post and Robertson’s low shot was blocked by David Yurchenko’s fingertips.
Celtic defender Ralston, on his prime, was at the heart of his early promise, setting both chances with his strong running down the right.
Jack Hendry’s head was easily saved and McGinn crashed a toxic free kick a few feet high as the traffic continued in one direction.
On their way to beat the Republic of Ireland in harsh conditions this weekend, Armenia was content to sit back and give up. In the Glasgow rain, their cage approach was more evident as the visiting team’s five players rarely ventured five yards from the penalty area.
It was hard to find a way to get around such congestion, so Armstrong crossed the top to break the deadlock, with the Southampton midfielder putting in a superb cross into the back corner as Ralston expertly nodded his head.
A similar cross was made for the same area and then I found Che Adams, who hit the ball in Ryan Christie’s way only for the Bournemouth striker to hit an embarrassing half into the stands when the net was uneven.
The second goal couldn’t have been simpler, as McKenna was too powerful for his opponent as he waited for McGinn’s corner to drop to his head inside the six-yard box.
The huge Nottingham Forest defender, who was a surefire presence throughout the evening, was again denied by the VAR of the first half when he veered slightly offside to meet a header from Adams.
Scotland were slower to break out of the blocks after the first half, with prodigal Christie heading in before the irrepressible Ralston shot.
Ralston is a player born again under Celtic coach Ange Postecoglou. After making one single appearance in 2020-21, this was the 23-year-old’s 49th game of the season.
And first things first, your country doesn’t get much better. He was a perpetual motion blur on the wing and was unrelenting as some of his teammates chose to conserve energy after the break.
There was a wide smile on Ralston’s face as he walked off the field to standing ovations at 75 minutes – and not just because his withdrawal coincided with a torrential downpour.
Amidst the ladder-bar rain, McGinn fired a shot at the bar and hit the skewed Scott McGinn away before another McGinn missile whistled.
Armenia, who is ranked 53rd in the world after Scotland in 92nd, had two chances to break up all night, both of which saved comfortably for Craig Gordon.
Man of the Match – Anthony Ralston
what did we learn?
Scotland face tougher tests in this group, with Ukraine set to cross their path twice again in September, but Clarke’s men had to shrug off the pain of that semi-final defeat in order to launch to a victorious start.
The winning style was also certain, as Scotland raced out of the traps and wrapped up the competition before the break.
Another goal or two would have been a great bonus for the big Hampden crowd, but Clarke will be pleased with his team’s reaction after some of the barbs.
Ralston’s appearance is a huge plus and six changes to the starting line-up speak to the depth of the squad that will be important over the next two matches.
The next Scotland will travel to Dublin on Saturday (17:00 GMT) before Armenia plays hosts on Tuesday.
formation – composition 3-4-3
- 23Ralstonhas been replaced byPattersonin 76 ‘Minutes
- 8McGregorBooked in 42 minutes
- 3Robertsonhas been replaced byQibla signin 76 ‘Minutes
- 17S Armstronghas been replaced byMcTominayin 75 ‘Minutes
- 10Adamshas been replaced bybrouwnin 87 ‘Minutes
- 11Kristihas been replaced byStewartin 87 ‘Minutes
- 22Qibla sign
formation – composition 4-3-2-1
- 3HaruyanBooked in 45 minutes
- 7Peramianhas been replaced bydashianin 89′Minutes
- 5Gregorianhas been replaced byAngolanin 45′MinutesBooked in 90 minutes
- 8spersianBooked in 67 minuteshas been replaced byyou are doingin 71 ‘Minutes
- 13Hovhannesianhas been replaced byVoscanianin 45′Minutes
- 22Adamianhas been replaced byBichakhchyanin 45′Minutes
- 17you are doing
- Sebastian Geschmer
The match is over, Scotland 2, Armenia 0.
The second half ends, Scotland 2, Armenia 0.
Wbeymar Angulo (Armenia) was shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jacob Brown (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Error by Wbeymar Angulo (Armenia).
False by Jacob Brown (Scotland).
Tigran Barsgian (Armenia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Error by John McGinn (Scotland).
Wbeymar Angulo (Armenia) won with a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt saved. John McGinn (Scotland) takes a left-footed shot from outside the penalty area and is blocked in the middle of the goal. Assisted by Scott McTominay.
Attempt saved. Tigran Barsgian (Armenia) kicks a left footed shot from the center of the penalty area in the lower left corner. With the help of Vahan Bichakhchyan.
Replacement, Armenia. Artak Dashian replaces Khrin Peramyan.
Scott McKenna (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
False by Tigran Parsgian (Armenia).
wasted attempt. John McGinn (Scotland) left footed shot from outside the box is slightly elevated. Assisted by Callum McGregor.
Replacement, Scotland. Jacob Brown replaces Che Adams.
Replacement, Scotland. Ross Stewart replaces Ryan Christie.
Offside, Armenia. Wbeymar Angulo attempts a through pass, but Khoren Bayramyan is caught offside.
Offside, Armenia. Hrayer McCoyan attempts a through pass, but Tigran Parsgian is caught offside.
Error by Jack Hendry (Scotland).