Outstanding Ryan Porteous debut helps Scotland secure Euro 2024 play-off

An immense international debut from Hibs defender Ryan Porteous and another goalkeeping masterclass from Craig Gordon, as he became the sixth most-capped Scotland player of all time, secured the point needed against Ukraine to win Nations League Group B1.

Hearts defender Stephen Kingsley also came on from the bench to win his second cap – six years after debut – and see the game out, Scotland holding on for a 0-0 draw in Kraków to wrap up a successful international week for manager Steve Clarke.

The rewards include a guaranteed play-off place for Euro 2024 before the qualifying group is even drawn in Frankfurt on October 9. Scotland will also be in pot 2 when that takes place and can look forward to dining at the top table of European international football. The result means Scotland leapfrog England in the world rankings and have secured promotion to Nations League Group A.

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Porteous played a hugely significant role on his debut, most significantly when making a brave and perfectly-timed sliding challenge in the 88th minute to hook the ball clear, claims for a penalty correctly waved away. After-match stats showed that he was the best player on the pitch for accurate passes, interceptions and tackles won.

Hibs defender Ryan Porteous is challenged by Mykhaylo Mudryk of Ukraine on his debut for Scotland. Picture: Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty

He was backed up by Gordon, the 39-year-old keeper impressive on his 73rd international appearance, which takes him above Tom Boyd in the all-time list and three caps behind Paul McStay in fifth place. The Hearts captain will probably be 40 the next time he pulls on the gloves for Scotland but there is no indication that he is ready to call time on his Scotland career yet.

Clarke, who was overseeing his 40th match in charge, will be pleased about that. Gordon needed to be alert on a night in Kraków when Scotland had to dig deep and ride their luck to get the result they needed.

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With world champions boxer Oleksandr Usyk watching on from the stand, a depleted Scotland team were on the ropes at times in the second half and barely laid a glove on their opponents going forward. But they never lost control, keeping their discipline and shape and defending bravely to get the job done.

An inexperienced back four of Aaron Hickey, Hendry, Porteous and Taylor stood up to the test and the 23-year-old Hibs stalwart played a huge part.

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He was an unused sub when Hibs teammate Paul Hanlon came on for 11 minutes against the Czech Republic in October 2010 to win his only cap.

A Hibs centre-back had not represented Scotland since, but Porteous settled quickly by making an interception inside his own box with his first touch in the third minute.

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He showed aggression to win an early header against Artem Dovbyk and anticipation to read Andriy Yarmolenko’s forward pass and cut it out.

Porteous relishes a physical battle against a big striker and in Dovbyk, the 6ft 2in Dnipro-1 frontman, he got exactly that. When Dovbyk did manage to get in behind Hendry and Porteous to face Gordon one-on-one, the striker’s shot was tame and Gordon was allowed to pluck it from the air.

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Porteous received an accidental a boot to the head from the Hearts keeper after another good block and any question marks about lapses in concentration were answered emphatically in the second half as he put up the barricades and the seal on an outstanding performance. Did he look happy? He certainly did.