Scotland cruised to a 3-0 win over Cyprus in Larnaca and move to within touching distance of reaching the Euro 2024 finals.
Goals from Scott McTominay, Ryan Porteous and John McGinn sealed three points for the Scots and ensured that qualification for next year’s tournament in Germany could be secured as early as Tuesday night.
Spain’s thumping 7-1 win in Georgia earlier in the day means that if Norway draw with Georgia in four days time then Scotland, currently group leaders, are guaranteed to finish in one of the top two spots in Group A.
Having continued their perfect run in the campaign, and stretched their winning run in qualifiers to 11 games, Scotland will be confident of getting the results they need regardless of what happens elsewhere on the back of another strong performance on Friday night. Two points from the remaining three games would guarantee qualification regardless of other results.
After winning all four of their games in the first half of the campaign, the challenge for Steve Clarke’s side was to regain momentum after nearly a three-month gap between games. That goal was met with ease, Scotland going ahead after just six minutes.
The visitors had already enjoyed plenty of the ball when Andy Robertson picked the ball up on the left and he made one of his trademark surges towards the bye-line. The Scotland captain’s cross was flicked on by John McGinn at the near post and Scott McTominay nodded it over the line.
Scotland’s confidence was soaring but that didn’t mean Cyprus were down and out and they responded well to going a goal down, with Grigoris Kastanos having two efforts on goal from distance that kept goalkeeper Angus Gunn lively.
But ten minutes after scoring the opener, Scotland struck again. A free-kick allowed defenders to get forward for a set piece and Robertson swung the ball in from deep. Jack Hendry rose to nod the ball down and Porteous pounced, striking confidently into the back of the net.
The second goal settled Scotland and they began to dominate possession, then turned that into a third goal after just half an hour.
McTominay carried the ball in from the right and played it inside to McGinn on the edge of the box, who lifted his head and then curled a powerful shot past Joel Mall.
With clear distance between them and Cyprus, there was no need to force the issue and Scotland slowed the pace and let the opposition do the running in the heat. Half-time came and went without any real change to the pattern of play and Cyprus had only the occasional shot from distance.
Clarke took the opportunity to make changes, with Kenny McLean and Lyndon Dykes replacing Billy Gilmour and Che Adams, and the pace went out of the game as the second half progressed.
Scotland’s best chance of adding to their tally came when McTominay tried his luck from outside the box and saw his curling effort beat Mall but come back off the far post.
Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Patterson were introduced with less than ten minutes to go, allowing McGinn and Aaron Hickey to rest, and the atmosphere in the AEK Arena had quietened with the outcome already settled a good while before.
Scotland saw out the final minutes without fuss and will now turn attention to Tuesday’s friendly against England at Hampden, and the prospect of sealing qualification on the same night if Norway and Georgia draw.