Scotland 2-0 Spain: Steve Clarke’s classy and clinical side give coming of age show

Scotland v Spain

On nights like this – tumultuous and turbulent and a triumph from beginning to end – you raise your eyes to the heavens and thank the man above for Scott McTominay and his giant-killing chums, for Steve Clarke and his heroic leadership, and for the Hampden crowd in all their ground-shaking-under-your-feet euphoria.

This was special, thunderous, unforgettable.

Scotland hadn’t beaten Spain since 1984, when Mo Johnston and Kenny Dalglish were the heroes. Ronald Reagan became president of the United States of America in 1984. Band Aid was in 1984. Diego Maradona joined Napoli in 1984. 1984 was a long, long, long time ago. Clarke had his 21st birthday that year.

When Kieran Tierney sped away from the Champions League-laden Dani Carvajal early in the second half, an entire stadium jumped to its feet in anticipation. When McTominay drilled his shot between the legs of David Garcia and past Kepa Arrizabalaga, the place erupted.

Never mind being able to hear the noise from one end of Glasgow to the other, you could have heard the racket from Santiago de Compostela to Seville. They’ll have been gulping in Norway and Georgia, too. This was a night that will have reverberated around Europe.

With a new manager, a new captain, a new team, new tactics, Spain also had a new experience. Before this, they had lost only seven times in 146 qualifying games for European Championships and World Cups.

Make that eight. Make that a haunted look on the face of their players. Make it a post-mortem in their media and some deeply uncomfortable times for Luis de la Fuente, only in the job a wet week and already in danger of being overcome by a deluge of flak.

‘Spain high on histrionics but low on cutting edge’

Two goals to the good, this was fantasy football come true. McTominay, an utter colossus on a night of giants, came off the bench on Saturday against Cyprus and scored twice late on. He took seven minutes to score again.

Poor Pedro Porro. Nobody warned him how tricky underfoot the Hampden pitch can be. Never let another bad word be said about this majestic, magic carpet. He slipped on the surface and let Andy Robertson in behind him. Robertson, like a terrier, pulled it back for McTominay and his shot got a deflection that took it past Kepa.

Hampden screamed its head off and rubbed its eyes in disbelief.

On the touchline, De la Fuente turned away in angst. He said that a new era in Spanish football had dawned with his appointment but he can’t have predicted this. He took Luis Enrique’s World Cup squad, World Cup tactics and World Cup mindset with its sideways passing and its attempt to inflict death by possession and chucked it in the bin. But what has he replaced it with?

He elevated younger players and dispensed with older ones. He took other older ones from the wilderness and put them in his team. Against Norway on Saturday, he gave Espanyol striker Joselu a debut two days short of his 33rd birthday. Against Scotland, he gave Osasuna centre-back David Garcia a debut at 29.

From Spain’s exit from the World Cup to the Norway game, his first in charge, the coach made a host of changes. From Norway to Hampden, he made another eight. A brand new team with a new back four, a new attacking three and a new front man. None of it worked. None of it.

Robertson’s tenacity and McTominay’s Midas touch set the night up perfectly, it engaged the crowd and rattled the Spaniards, who came steaming back into it. That first half was frenetic and narky. There was all sorts going on. Lusty tackles, playacting, missed chances, controversy.

Joselu, scorer of two goals in two minutes against Norway, was the pantomime baddie here. He missed from point-blank range midway through the half, he hit the crossbar from whatever position is more point-blank range than point-blank range seconds later. Spain’s crosses were sumptuous, their finishing slapstick.

And there was the incident that drove them scatty. Robertson’s elbow connected with Porro’s chin and down Porro went. Down and over and across he went, like a fish being landed. Robertson, it has to be said, was lucky. His elbow caught Porro and he got away with it. It was a big break on a momentous night that only got more intoxicating as it went on.

Spain were high on histrionics but low on cutting edge. They could and should have had a penalty, Joselu going down after his shirt was pulled, but maybe Joselu was seen as the boy who cried wolf at that point. Play went on, Joselu beat the grass in frustration, Hampden laughed. Uproariously.

‘Resilient Scotland repel aristocrats’

It was one of the most brilliant halves of football seen at Hampden in years. This wasn’t a grim, but exciting, battle against a minnow; not a thrilling get out of jail situation, the like of which we have seen in the recent past. This was a top nation being beaten by a fast-emerging nation, a new Spanish team being put away by a team truly coming of age.

McTominay’s second was a joy, pure and simple. Tierney, with little game time under his belt for Arsenal, made light of Carvajal down the left. Made the great man look like an old man. The finish from the Manchester United player was more akin to a guy from across the city. Haalandesque.

There was more, loads more. Spain dug deep to try and claw their way out of the hole they were in but Scotland, showing the resilience that has seen them concede one goal in their last five competitive matches, were having none of it.

Everybody stepped up. Everybody. If the aristocrats from Madrid, Barcelona and beyond weren’t aware of the legend of Ryan Porteous, then they’re aware of it now.

Spain had some moments that were snuffed out. Scotland had some other moments that were also missed, not that it mattered. It mattered not an inch, not when they were already a veritable mile ahead.

They closed it out like the excellent team they are now. Confident, classy and clinical. A new Scotland, top of the table. Bask in the glory.

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