Though not widely known for his goalscoring exploits, Scott McTominay scored twice in Scotland’s 3-0 victory over Cyprus and the Manchester United man was incredibly back on the goal trail tonight. A little over five minutes were on the clock when a costly Pedro Porro slip allowed Andy Robertson to cut the ball back to the on-rushing McTominay, whose deflected strike fired Scotland into a surprise lead.
Another two goal hero in his side’s opening game, Joselu was out to replicate McTominay’s goalscoring exploits, but his header crashed back off the bar as Spain pushed for an equaliser. That reprieve seemed to buoy Scotland a little, who were unlucky not to take a two goal lead into half-time when Lyndon Dykes raced onto the end of a hopeful ball in behind the Spanish defence, but his lofted effort dropped agonisingly over the bar.
Scotland didn’t have to wait long to double their advantage though, as inside the first ten minutes of the second half that man McTominay was at it again, reacting quickest to slam home on the volley to the delight of a delirious Hampden Park. Spain had offered precious little throughout the game, and even a raft of changes by boss Luis de la Fuente failed to have the desired effect, as the Spanish continued to struggle in front of goal.
In truth, Spain were rather sub-standard by their own exceptionally high standards and never truly looked like foraging a way back into the game despite the best efforts of Iago Aspas who spurned a glorious opportunity to halve the arrears. The night belonged to Scotland though, who in opening their qualification campaign with two successive wins for the first time since their failed attempt to qualify for Euro 2008, secured an eighth successive major tournament qualification victory outside of play-off games.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Scott McTominay (Scotland)
With Euro 2024 being staged in his home country, Turkey head coach Stefan Kuntz would have expected the very best from his side, and the Turks initially picked up where they left off in a comeback win over Armenia during the opening Group D matchday. In particular, Kerem Aktürkoğlu caused difficulties down the left, firstly pouncing on a Josip Šutalo defensive mishap, before forcing Dominik Livaković into a world class save. From the resulting corner, Aktürkoğlu tapped home following a Çağlar Söyüncü flick, only to be flagged marginally offside.
After Croatia regrouped, the Blazers drew first blood against the run of play, turning defence into attack down the right before the ball made its way to Pašalić. Despite his dithering in possession allowing a defensive tackle from Turkey, the ball rolled into the path of Kovačić, who once again lived up to his nickname of ‘The Professor’ and gratefully swept home for his first International goal since November 2020.
Capitalising on Turkey’s profound sense of shock, the same combination struck a real killer blow soon after. Mert Günok was unable to hold Pašalić’s left footed effort, leaving Kovačić with an empty goal to tap into on the stroke of HT. It looked a long way back all of a sudden for Turkey, but driven on by an emotional and spirited crowd following February’s earthquake disaster, it was their shining light in Ferdi Kadıoğlu who drove forward with promise. He was brought down in the box towards the end of his jinking run, but Swedish referee Andreas Ekberg saw no wrongdoing.
Pašalić should have wrapped up this battle with an even greater margin late on, but squandered a clear opportunity yards from goal, firing straight down the throat of Günok on the end of a Luka Modrić cross. In the end, Croatia had the quality to see the game out and record a seventh clean sheet in nine away from home. Additionally, they also provided some sort of revenge on Kuntz, who was part of the German side that knocked Croatia out of the Euro ‘96 finals.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Mateo Kovačić (Croatia)