Second-half goals from John McGinn and Lyndon Dykes kept Scotland’s hopes of promotion to League A in the UEFA Nations League alive as Steve Clarke’s side beat Ukraine 3-0.
McGinn broke the deadlock with 20 minutes to play at a lively Hampden Park and substitute Dykes’s late brace rubberstamped the win as Scotland moved two points clear at the top of Group B1.
It was the least Scotland deserved after a dominant performance in which they created a plethora of opportunities.
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Scotland started the night a point and a place behind leaders Ukraine, who they lost 3-1 to in a World Cup play-off in June. But they came out the more confident side and could have been ahead when Stuart Armstrong’s floated cross was met by the head of Ryan Christie whose looping header bounced over.
Minutes later, Armstrong tested Anatoliy Trubin with a first-time shot from the edge of the penalty area before Scotland lost Nathan Patterson to a serious looking injury with the Everton full-back leaving on a stretcher.
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A moment of controversy occurred as Scotland upped the tempo in search of opener, with Valeriy Bondar taking out Che Adams, who was bearing down on goal, but the referee only produced a yellow card.
The chances kept coming for Scotland after the break, with Armstrong spurning two in two minutes. A moment after shooting straight at Trubin, he blazed an effort over from point-blank range.
The crossbar would come to Ukraine’s rescue as a thumping header from Adams had Trubin beaten. But the Ukraine goalkeeper was equal to an almost identical effort from the Southampton forward moments later.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 70th minute when McGinn outmuscled Bondar, turned and fired a low strike into the bottom corner.
Ten minutes later, Dykes – only on as a substitute – doubled the advantage with a glancing header from Ryan Fraser’s cross. Dykes grabbed his second with a goal almost identical to his first to make it three.
Victory means Scotland replace Ukraine at the top of the group. They host the Republic of Ireland on Saturday before a potential deciding game against Ukraine in Krakow next Tuesday.
Scotland take control of their own destiny: This result means much more than just avenging Ukraine's victory three months ago - Scotland are now potentially four points away from finishing top of Group B1, which would guarantee a play-off spot for Euro 2024.
It means they are now in control of their own destiny. If Scotland can hold their nerve and manage to finish top of their Nations League group, they would be second seeds for the European Championships in two years' time.
On this form, they must be considered favourites to do it. Clarke must take the credit for playing with a back four, and for making the right substitutions at the right time to ensure their dominance didn't go to waste. The players responded to the challenge and savoured the celebrations at the final whistle. Confidence is high as they prepare for two huge games in the next five days.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
John McGinn (Scotland): With a moment of immense quality to shrug off his marker, McGinn had the composure to match as he struck the opener to give Scotland lift-off.
Scotland: Gordon 6, Patterson 6, McTominay 8, Hendry 7, McKenna 7, Tierney 7, Armstrong 7, McGinn 8*, McGregor 7, Christie 7, Adams 8. Subs: Taylor N/A, Dykes 8, Fraser 8, Hickey 8, McLean N/A.
Ukraine: Trubin 7, Mykhaylichenko 6, Matviyenko 6, Bondar 5, Karavaev 6, Stepanenko 5, Yarmolenko 6, Pikhalonok 6, Malinovskyi 6, Mudryk 6, Dovbyk 6. Subs: Yaremchuk 5, Ignatenko N/A, Zubkov N/A.
60' - GREAT CHANCE! McTominay's sublime backheel opens up the space for Armstrong, who has only the goalkeeper to beat... but he blazes his shot over the bar from point-blank range!
64' - HOW HAVE SCOTLAND NOT SCORED?! Adams is denied by the crossbar with a thumping header! And with an identical chance moments later, he forces a great save from Trubin!
69' - ANOTHER CHANCE FOR ARMSTRONG! Armstrong pops up in the right place at the right time but again he can't find the target. This time he heads wide from Adams' cross with the goal gaping.
70' - GOAL! SCOTLAND 1-0 UKRAINE (JOHN MCGINN): And finally, the breakthrough! McGinn outmuscles Bonder, turns and fires a low strike into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Trubin. The relief around Hampden Park is tangible!
80' - GOAL! SCOTLAND 2-0 UKRAINE (LYNDON DYKES): Only on the pitch a matter of minutes, Dykes has all but sealed the win for Scotland with his first goal for his country! Fraser delivers a cross to the near post and Dykes meets it with a glancing header that nestles in the far corner.
87' - GOAL! SCOTLAND 3-0 UKRAINE (LYNDON DYKES): Dykes grabs his second with a goal almost identical to his first! He climbs the highest to meet Fraser's corner and again he makes no mistake with his header.
Lyndon Dykes is the first substitute to score a brace for Scotland since Chris Burke in May 2006 (against Bulgaria).
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