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Scotland beat San Marino 6-0 and Lawrence Shankland scores

John McGinn's celebrates one of his goals.
John McGinn's celebrates one of his goals.

A John McGinn hat-trick, a first goal for Lawrence Shankland and an utterly dominant performance gave Steve Clarke the emphatic win over the lowest-ranked nation in world football that was expected and required to end a wretched run of form and results.

But a French referee who clearly didn’t fancy the idea of hanging about for another day and abandoning the match when the Hampden Park pitch became waterlogged also played an important role in Scotland getting all the Group I points from this game against San Marino.

The Scottish sporting weather story was supposed to be in Japan, not Glasgow.

With the Scots three up at the break through McGinn’s goals, however, there was a serious doubt whether the match could or should continue as a result of increasingly farcical second half conditions.

Had the scoreline been closer – and had this been a domestic game – it surely would have been called off.

The goals from Shankland and Stuart Findlay (65 and 67 minutes) probably came at the right time to persuade Jerome Brisard to keep going.

Stuart Armstrong found the net with a late free-kick, Scotland had a 6-0 win and they moved above Kazakhstan into fourth in the group table.

The attacking intent from the Scots was in evidence from the off.

Within five minutes the corner count was up to three and Scott McTominay should have opened the scoring from the last of them.

The Manchester United man met Andy Robertson’s cross, after the corner had been played short to the skipper, but McTominay’s six-yard header was wide of the target.

A minute later Shankland came even closer to breaking the deadlock. James Forrest did the hard work by rolling his marker, driving into the box and cutting the ball back for Dundee United’s talisman.

There wasn’t too much wrong with Shankland’s instinctive first-time shot but San Marino keeper Aldo Simoncini produced a magnificent reflex save to tip it over the crossbar.

There was an inevitability that a Scotland goal was coming – if that doesn’t sound like a contradiction – and McGinn was the man who scored it on 12 minutes.

The Aston Villa midfielder timed a run into the box to perfection and got a toe to Ryan Christie’s low cross (maybe a shot) into the danger area to give Simoncini no chance.

Shankland was linking the play nicely when required and offering the sort of runs from a centre-forward that the ball players in the Scottish midfield have been crying out for. On one such occasion he got beyond his marker, Luca Censoni, but his shot from an acute angle could only find the side-netting.

Midway through the half Jon McLaughlin still hadn’t touched the ball but the same couldn’t be said of his opposite number. Simoncini’s latest save was one low to his right to keep out a Forrest 20-yarder.

On 26 minutes there was a San Marino corner to defend but it came to nothing.

Any jeopardy in this contest was removed a minute later, though, when McGinn scored his and Scotland’s second.

McTominay did the hard work on the left to work space for his cross and then Simoncini’s hand only served to lay the ball on a plate for McGinn, whose shot found the net after taking a slight deflection off Alessandro D’Addario.

It was starting to look like 2-0 would be the half-time score, with McTominay and Michael Devlin both narrowly failing to extend the lead – the former with a shot blocked from close-range and the latter with a header that scraped past the post from a corner.

But in stoppage time McGinn completed his hat-trick with another striker’s finish after Stuart Findlay nodded the ball into his path.

There was certainly nothing to fear football-wise that this would be anything other than a second half story of how many. The heavy rain that had battered the Hampden pitch, however, was doing a much better job than the visiting players in keeping the score down.

Puddles were starting to form and passes were stopping short.

There would have been no appetite in either camp for the game to be abandoned but you could imagine watching club managers wincing as conditions were getting ever more treacherous.

San Marino would probably choose to play all their games in surface water because the deteriorating underfoot conditions were disrupting the attacking team more than the defending one.

Nothing happened in their box for over 20 minutes of the second 45 – until Shankland got his goal.

It was a trademark number nine’s effort, with the Tannadice frontman following up a McTominay shot that came back off the bar.

Four became five two minutes later when Findlay headed home a Christie corner.

A current Dundee United striker had scored and a former one nearly did likewise. Moments after coming off the bench, Johnny Russell had an effort that was turned round the post by Simoncini.

It was another ex-United player who did get on the scoresheet in 86 minutes. Armstrong’s 25-yard free-kick gave the keeper no chance to complete the scoring.

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