Scotland smash past Spain, and remember how to dream again

·4-min read
Scott McTominay was Scotland’s hero with a match-winning double  (Getty Images)
Scott McTominay was Scotland’s hero with a match-winning double (Getty Images)

A night beyond the wildest of imaginations for Scotland, and a recurring nightmare for this new Spain. If it feels like Hampden has been designed for nights like this, a bearpit of an arena where former champions can be slayed, this may have been its reawakening under Steve Clark. While Spain have rarely looked as much of a shadow of their former selves than this, Scotland executed their plan and played the occasion to perfection. Spain were rattled and then crumbled; a new era suffering its first, major setback.

A famous night in Glasgow and Scotland’s first win against Spain since 1984 was marked by a double from Scott McTominay. There were assists for Andy Robrterson and Kieran Tierney,  Scotland’s two left backs working wonderfully in tandem, as well as the Hampden pitch. Pedro Porro’s costly slip was the beginning of Spain’s unravelling but Scotland seized their chance. John McGinn and Callum McGregor were outstanding alongside McTominay in midfield - even as Scotland saw much less of the ball than the beaten visitors.

The last time Spain arrived at Hampden they were the newly crowned World Cup winners but in Luis de la Fuente’s second match in charge their decline in the 13 years since was evident. Spain made eight changes from Saturday’s 3-0 win against Norway, starting with just two players with more than 20 international caps, but a new team suffered the same old problems. This wasn’t the horror of Morocco unfolding again but it was more humbling. On a damp and heavy night in the south side of Glasgow, this was like getting ganged up on in a car park.

McTominay was the hero but Scotland had several, including, perhaps, the pitch. If the Hampden surface was poor on Saturday during Scotland’s 3-0 win over Cyprus, it was worse three days later. Slow, heavy and uneven, Spain were unable to gain a foothold. Passes bobbled and jumped, or slowed suddenly. Spain, so often the most meticulous of passers, were instead hesitant, taking an extra touch. As Porro slipped and Robertson pulled it back, McTominay hit a shot that squirmed through Inigo Martinez’s legs and deflected past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Hampden rose. Within six minutes there was a lead fight for, and a thunderous night boiled into a full-blooded contest long before half time. Scotland were aggressive, Spain tetchy and bruised, yet the inexperienced visitors initially responded well. Joselu, making his first Spain start after scoring two in two minutes off the bench against Norway, hit the bar with the second of two headers, Rodri flicked a near-post effort just over and Porro smashed a drive that Angus Gunn had to tip over.

It was a shot hit in frustration, as well as anger. Scotland’s captain Robertson, playing too close to the edge, was lucky not to be sent off for a shoulder barge that caught the full-back’s chin. Spain had already been on the receiving end of some increasingly physical treatment. McGinn and McTominay charged into challenges. Lyndon Dykes, a willing warhorse of a forward, caught the bewildered debutant David Garcia with an arm when challenging for a high ball.

Yet Scotland took touches when they could. McGinn and McTominay, outstanding in midfield ,showed enough composure to bring the ball down and play. McGinn’s turn and pass released Ryan Christie, who carried and poked wide. Tierney’s punt to Dykes on the stroke of half time was considerably more agricultural. Dykes chased, gathered, but lifted his shot over both Kepa and the crossbar.

Spain had already lost their cool. Joselu went down in the box for the second time in the half claiming a penalty and, when his calls continued to be ignored, pounded the cursed turf in theatrical rage. Porro, booed on every possession after his tussle with Roberston, was brought off at half time and replaced with Dani Carvajal. A winner of five Champions Leagues with Real Madrid, the full back fared no better. Tierney skipped around the outside, his cross deflected back off Garcia, McTominay caught the volley and suddenly it was two.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The clock read just 51 minutes and yet Spain were beaten. Iago Aspas was called by De la Fuenta before Alvaro Morata, who remained on the bench. Gavi did arrive, but far too late. Gunn, making just his second appearance in the Scotland goal, was barely troubled at 2-0.

Instead, Scotland came closest to a third when McGinn clipped the bar with a free kick. That would have brought delirium, which rather left a stunned silence as Scotland played this out. So often, Scotland qualifying campaigns have only brought the prospect of nights like these, now they have two wins from two in Group A and an early lead on both Spain and Norway. More importantly, it’s a night where Scotland remembered how to dream again.