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Scotland 3 Kazakhstan 1: John McGinn double helps exorcise ghost at haunted Hampden

John McGinn makes it 3-1.
John McGinn makes it 3-1.

Hampden may have felt haunted but at least Scotland exorcised their Kazakhstan ghost.

There were tens of thousands of empty seats inside the national stadium, with the dead rubber game not exactly catching the imagination.

However, the Scots made some amends for their horror show in March, when they lost 3-0 away to the Kazakhs to wreck their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign before it really got started.

The result didn’t really matter but at least the team go into the play-offs next March on the back of three wins and with third spot in Group I secured.

The visitors had stunned the 19,515 spectators inside the stadium when Baktiyor Zainutdinov scored with a lovely shot from just outside the box on 34 minutes.

The Scots levelled on 48 minutes when John McGinn’s freekick from the edge of the box was deflected into the net before Steven Naismith headed home on 64 minutes to put Steve Clarke’s men ahead.

Just before the final whistle, Aston Villa midfielder McGinn bagged his seventh goal in six starts for his country to finish things off on a high note.

The visitors started brightly but, with four minutes gone, the Scots got upfield and McGinn tried, unsuccessfully, to convert a dangerous cross delivered by Greg Taylor.

There was a Celtic connection on 11 minutes when James Forrest went on a good run up the right and his cutback was scooped over by Hoops teammate Callum McGregor.

On a bitterly cold night in Glasgow, the match took a while to warm up but Kazakhstan produced a nice move on 16 minutes that almost led to a goal.

They swept upfield in numbers and when Dmitri Shomko’s shot-cross made it to the back post it needed a save from Scots goalie David Marshall to keep out the toepoke from Aleksei Schetkin.

Scotland responded with another chance, this time McGinn dragging his shot wide after good set-up play from Forrest.

McGinn then had the ball smashed into his face by Yuri Logvinenko on 23 minutes but was able to continue after treatment.

The hosts raced forward again just four minutes later and Forrest was involved once more, this time the winger delivering a shot straight at keeper Dmytro Nepogodov.

The Parkhead player was seeing lots of the ball and he had a cross blocked by Sergei Maliy before Ryan Christie tested Nepogodov with a curling shot that almost sneaked inside the near post.

Form that corner, Christie’s cross was deflected upwards and Naismith headed into the hands of the goalie.

It all went horribly wrong from the home team on 34 minutes, though, when the Kazakhs took the lead against the run of play.

Scots central defender Scott McKenna thought it was fine to back off Zainutdinov as he made his way forward after Kazakhstan were gifted possession by Liam Palmer. All McKenna did, though, was give his opponent time and space in which to deliver a terrific 22-yard strike that beat Marshall at the goalie’s right-hand post.

It was a shocking goal to lose from a Scottish perspective and they tried to battle back when Ryan Jack found room inside the box but saw Nepogodov save.

Naismith won a freekick in first-half stoppage-time but Christie’s effort flew over the bar to bring a miserable first period to a close.

Three minutes after the restart, Naismith was fouled on the edge of the box by Yuri Pertsukh and, finally, Scotland were able to get the ball in the net.

McGinn was the man with the freekick and he battered it off the back of Bauyrzhan Islamkhan, with the deflection leaving Nepogodov with no chance.

Forrest looked like making it 2-1 on 51 minutes when he collected a cutback from Taylor but he fired wide. Naismith’s effort was even worse when he, too, found room inside the box. Naismith then saw his low strike deflected for a corner.

Up at the other end, Shomko tried his luck from 30 yards but the ball whizzed past Marshall’s post as the game passed the hour mark.

Scotland eventually got their noses in front thanks to Naismith. The goal wasn’t a thing of beauty – there looked to be a foul on Kazakh goalie Nepogodov by McGinn – but the home fans didn’t care.

Palmer did well to hit the byline before his cross was deflected up into the air. With McGinn appearing to collide with the keeper, the ball came down right in front of the net and Naismith muscled his way in to head home from a yard out.

The Scots were in command now and McGinn almost grabbed a third when his flick flew past the post on 82 minutes.

With the match moving into its 90th minute, the Scots made it 3-1 with a well-worked goal that saw Taylor fire a low ball over from the left and McGinn side-foot home. It was a nice end to a poor qualifying campaign.

Attendance: 19,515.

Scotland: Marshall, Palmer, Taylor, Jack, Gallagher, McKenna, Forrest, McGinn (Armstrong 90), Naismith (Burke 78), McGregor, Christie (Fleck 83). Subs not used: McLaughlin, MacGillivray, Shinnie, Devlin, Morgan, Brophy, McBurnie, O’Donnell, Porteous.

Kazakhstan: Nepogodov, Maliy, Abiken, Schetkin (Aimbetov 83), Islamkhan (Kuat 75), Pertsukh (Fedin 75), Marochkin, Suyumbayev, Shomko, Zainutdinov, Logninenko. Subs not used: Pokatilov, Shatskiy, Yerlanov, Kerimzhanov, Tagybergen, Zhukov, Alip, Miroshnichenko.

Referee: Hendrikus Bas Nijhuis (Netherlands).

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