2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers
Malta v Scotland
Sunday, 4 September 2016, kick-off 7.45pm
Ta Q’ali National Stadium
Scotland began their World Cup Qualifying campaign in sensational circumstances winning 5-1 against 9-man Malta in the searing heat of Ta’Qali.
Robert Snodgrass notched a hat-trick with Chris Martin and Steven Fletcher also netting.
In the first half Snodgrass saw a looping cross end up in the net but Malta drew level meaning the scores were tied at the interval.
In the second period, Martin put Scotland in front before the referee awarded a penalty and reduced Malta to 10 men allowing Snodgrass to grab a brace.
Steven Fletcher then joined the party to nod home before Snodgrass completed the scoring and secured his hat-trick.
Gordon Strachan handed starts to Callum Paterson and Chris Martin with Oliver Burke beginning the game fresh from his multi-million pound transfer to Germany.
In the sweltering heat, Scotland looked up for it from the off with Burke confident on the ball, making probing runs and Snograss smashing the ball just over the bar in the opening 10 minutes.
Matt Richie was also looking on his game and he threaded a pinpoint pass through to Chris Martin who saw his shot saved at the near post.
From that corner the ball fell to Snodgrass who attempted a cross on the 10th minute but overcooked it slightly resulting in it looping over the helpless goalkeeper and into the back of the net to the surprise of everyone in the stadium.
The lead only lasted four minutes however with Gareth Sciberras swinging in a dangerous cross which was met by Alfred Effiong who stretched beyond Paterson and headed home.
With 24 minutes on the clock Snodgrass was agonisingly close to doubling his goal tally when he connected a beautifully curled Paterson cross. The ball bounced at the feet of Malta ‘keeper Hogg and although it looked like it was squirming through his legs, he managed to grasp it.
10 minutes before the break Grant Hanley was inches away from hitting the net with a header following a clever Ritchie free-kick.
Andy Robertson was next to go close when he curled an effort from inside the box but failed to find the target.
Just before the break, Scottish hearts were in their mouths when Malta were extremely close to going in front but the sides went in at half-time level at 1-1.
At the start of the second–half Scotland suffered a few scares but on 53 minutes the travelling fans were euphoric once more when Ritchie swung in a dangerous ball and Martin slotted home from eight yards out.
It got even better for Scotland seven minutes later when a dangerous ball in was set to find Chris Martin but he was hacked down by Jonathan Caruana who was given his marching orders.
Snodgrass then stepped up and made it two goals for him and three for Scotland, slotting calmly beyond Hogg.
Matt Richie was a man on form for Scotland and he set up his second of the evening when his delicious cross was nodded home by substitute Steven Fletcher.
With the score at 4-1 to the Scots, the fans were in dreamland but it was to get even better when Steven Fletcher was clean through again and hit the woodwork after rounding the keeper but Snodgrass was on hand to complete his hat-trick.
As the game drew to a close Malta became frustrated and were reduced to nine men after Luke Gambin was sent packing.
The result sent the 4,000 home in delirium as Scotland top the group and all eyes turn to Hampden on Saturday 8 October when Strachan’s men take on Lithuania.
SCOTLAND | Marshall, Paterson, Hanley, R.Martin, Robertson, D.Fletcher (c), Bannan, Burke (Forrest, 66), Snodgrass, Ritchie (Anya, 86), C. Martin (S. Fletcher, 68)
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Hamilton, Berra, Greer, Hutton, McGinn, McKay, Morrison, Naismith