Crazy night at Hampden, Georgia sabotage attempt, 99-minute delay - but Scotland march on towards Euro 2024
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A chaotic night at Hampden Park ended with a monumental Scotland victory and another giant stride towards Euro 2024 in Germany. However, a delay of 99 minutes during the first half, torrential rain and Georgian attempts to get this Group A qualifier abandoned made for some shambolic scenes.
Callum McGregor and Scott McTominay scored Scotland goals to earn a fourth straight victory at the start of a qualifying campaign for the first time in history. They now top the section with a 100 per cent record after four matches, which ultimately left supporters delighted as they shuffled out of Hampden well after 11pm. It was an unforgettable night in many ways for those who witnessed it.
Although Scotland moved 1-0 ahead through McGregor on six minutes, play was farcical due to the puddle-ridden pitch. Proper football became impossible as the ball stuck in pools of water with players splashing about trying to control it.
The respective coaches, Steve Clarke and Willy Sagnol, appealed to the Hungarian referee Istvan Vad to abandon the game even before McGregor forced home his goal following John McGinn’s partially-cleared corner. Within minutes of that hitting the net, the players were heading back down the tunnel for an initial 20-minute break. That was extended again and again until it became one hour and 39 minutes.
Nine groundsmen brushed and rolled excess water from the surface, with a further six ballboys and even stewards joining in using extra equipment. The Tartan Army remained in good spirits and sang along to Why Does It Always Rain On Me? by Travis. Two inspections took place and, finally, Hampden was ruled playable again.
However, Georgia stubbornly remained in their dressing room. Any sabotage attempt or hope of getting the game called off failed and, after talks with UEFA and the match officials, the visitors eventually emerged to widespread jeers for the game to resume at 9.34pm. They were now firmly established as villains for the night as far as locals were concerned.
With only one defeat in their last 15 matches, Sagnol’s squad weren’t to be taken lightly but Scotland remained in control. Georgian goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili used his fingertips to prevent McTominay scoring a second and the Scots remained 1-0 ahead at the interval. They had just completed perhaps the longest half of football in history – two hours and 28 minutes from start to finish.
The second half was barely a minute old when McTominay doubled the home advantage. Andy Robertson scampered down the left for Kieran Tierney’s lofted ball, his touch deflected into McTominay’s path, and the Manchester United midfielder calmly stroked it past Mamardashvili from 18 yards with a finish similar to his second goal against Spain.
Georges Mikautadze should have reduced the deficit on 73 minutes but his acrobatic effort went wide. Georgian talisman Khvicha Kvaratskhelia sent a late penalty over the crossbar after handball by Aaron Hickey. With that, a fixture which began at 7.45pm eventually concluded 40 minutes before midnight as Scotland won 2-0.
Scotland (3-5-1-1): Gunn; Porteous, Hendry, Tierney (Souttar 76); Hickey, McTominay, Gilmour (McLean 85), McGregor (Jack 76), Robertson; McGinn (Christie 90), Dykes (Nisbet 76).
Georgia (4-2-3-1): Mamarsashvili; Kakabadze, Kverkvelia, Kashia, Dvali (Gocholeishvili 56); Gagnidze, Kvekveskiri (Zivzivadze 56); Lobjanidze (Davitashviki 64), Kiteishvili, Kvaratskhelia; Mikautadze.
Referee: Istvan Vad (Hungary).