UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier
Scotland 1- 2 Russia
Friday, 6 September 2019, kick-off 7.45pm
Scotland: McGinn (10'),
Russia: Dzyuba (40'), Zhirkov (59')
Scotland suffered their first home defeat of the campaign as a strong Russian team fought back from an early goal down to claim victory.
Yuri Zhirkov grabbed the winner in the second half after a bright start by the Scots had seen them score an early goal through John McGinn, his first in the dark blue.
The signs were good for Scotland when McGinn flashed an effort just wide within 20 seconds of the kick off, although Zhirkov had David Marshall scrambling backwards in the third minute, with his looping shot landing on the top of the net.
Despite that scare Scotland were dominating possession in the early stages, and forced a corner. From the in-swinger, Sheffield United front man Oliver McBurnie climbed highest and his knockdown fell to right back Steven O’Donnell. O’Donnell spun in the six yard box to get a shot away but Guilherme was out quickly to make a vital block.
The Brazilian-born keeper’s endeavours were quickly forgotten with the next Scotland attack. Just sixty seconds later, as the clock struck 10 minutes, Ryan Fraser, playing off the left wing, found himself in possession on the byeline with two Russians for company. Unfazed, the Bournemouth man dropped his shoulder and swung in a searching right foot cross which should have been business as usual for Guilherme. Instead the goalie inexplicably allowed the ball to bounce off him and land at the feet of John McGinn who continued his superb start to the season and showed composure to volley home with his favoured left foot on the occasion of his 16th cap.
For a period it looked like Scotland might build on their advantage, but Russia gradually grew into the game and, with Scotland defending deeper, began to exert their physicality. The hulking Artem Dzyuba muscled his gargantuan frame between Liam Cooper and Charlie Mulgrew to nod a goal-bound header which Marshall did brilliantly to tip over the bar. But the warning signs were there for Scotland that their work was nowhere near done yet. Then, five minutes before the interval, the Russians were level. And it was that man, the captain Dzyuba, who evened the scores. Fortune may have favoured the striker - skipper Andy Robertson’s interception from Alexandr Golovin dropping fortuitously at his feet, but the big Russian’s first touch opened up his body and allow him to drill low past Marshall for his sixth goal of the qualifying campaign.
The second half began with a yellow card for Scotland – Cooper was penalised for a challenge on Dzyuba within 30 seconds. The Leeds United skipper’s name went into the referee’s book for good measure, on his debut for Scotland.
From the resulting free kick Scotland couldn’t get the ball clear and had Mulgrew to thank for a terrific block from Golovin’s effort.
Golovin looked in the mood and followed his previous effort up by dancing his way through a 50 yard dribble to the edge of the Scotland box before firing just over. The Russians were starting to show the kind of form that took them to the quarter finals of the World Cup last summer, and that pressure paid off just before the hour mark.
Alesksei Ionov sent Golovin racing away down the Russian right channel, and after the Monaco man had snuck in behind Cooper, his cross to the back post found Zhirkov who bundled home under pressure from O’Donnell.
Shortly afterwards Scotland made a double change, bringing on Kenny McLean for James Forrest, and replacing goalscorer McGinn with Ryan Christie.
Charlie Mulgrew saw his free kick from the edge of the box whistle just wide before Zhirkov came close to grabbing his second, only to be denied by Marshall’s fingertips.
Mulgrew was vital at the other end, clearing off the line from substitute Erokhin as the Scots were almost caught on the counter attack whilst they threw everything forward in search of an equaliser.
But there was to be no repeat of the drama witnessed in the last home game against Cyprus, and Steve Clarke will now seek to rally his troops for the visit of the fancied Belgians in three days time.
Scotland: Marshall; O’Donnell, Mulgrew, Cooper, Robertson (capt); McTominay (78, Phillips), McGinn (62, Christie), McGregor; Forrest (62, McLean), McBurnie, Fraser.
Subs not used: McLaughlin, MacGillivray, Jack, Russell, Snodgrass, Armstrong, Taylor, Bates, Devlin.
Russia: Guilherme; Fernandes, Semenov, Dzhikija, Kudryashov, Zhirkov; Ozdoev, Zobnin (66, Barinov), Ionov (80, Erokhin); Golovin (89, Akhmetov), Dzyuba.
Subs not used: Smolov, Neustadter, Lunev, Dzanaev, Petrov, Karavaev, Anton Miranchuk, Cheryshev, Belyaev.
Man of the match: Scott McTominay