Goals from Nathan Patterson and Che Adams saw Scotland beat Moldova 2-0 to earn Steve Clarke’s side a place in the play-offs for the 2022 World Cup.
Patterson gave the visitors a crucial lead seven minutes before half-time and Adams doubled their advantage with a simple far-post finish after 65 minutes.
The visitors still needed to rely on goalkeeper Craig Gordon, who saved Vadim Rata’s VAR-awarded penalty eight minutes from time, to avoid a nervy finish at the Zimbru Stadium.
Scotland’s win – their fifth in a row in all competitions for the first time since 2007 – means they are guaranteed to finish second in Group F and with it a place in March’s play-offs, where they will be seeded if they beat group-winners Denmark at home in their final qualifier on Monday night.
How do the play-offs work?
The play-offs take place from March 24 to 29, with 10 group runners-up joined by the two best group winners from the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League overall ranking that have neither qualified directly as group winners, nor entered the play-offs already as group runners-up.
These 12 teams will be drawn into three play-off paths for one-off semi-finals and a final. The three path winners qualify for the World Cup.
Moldova: Namasco (8), Jardan (6), Posmac (6), Bolohan (6), Revenco (6), Rata (7), Dros (6), Ionita (7), Marandici (7), Nicolaescu (6), Ginsari (6)
Subs: Bogaciuc (6), Puntus (6), Cojocaru (6), Razgoniuc (6), Iosipoi (6)
Scotland: Gordon (8), Hendry (6), Cooper (6), Tierney (8), Patterson (9), Gilmour (8), McGregor (7), Robertson (7), John McGinn (8), Adams (8), Armstrong (7)
Subs: McLean (6), Turnbull (6), Nisbet (6), Clark (6), Brown (6)
Man of the match: Nathan Patterson
How Scotland made the World Cup play-offs
Scotland arrived in Chisinau knowing they could not afford any costly slip-ups against opponents ranked 181 in the world if they wanted to guarantee second spot in Group F and with it a play-off place for the 2022 World Cup – and that is exactly what Clarke’s men did, with a thoroughly-professional display.
The visitors dominated the early exchanges and thought they had taken a third-minute lead when Adams collected Andy Robertson’s cross and turned his man in a tight space before finishing calmly, only for the flag to go up for offside in a tight decision confirmed by the VAR.
However, despite being on top for the first quarter of the game, Scotland still had to rely on Gordon’s reflexes to keep the scoreline goalless as the goalkeeper produced a stunning save to keep out Artur Ionita’s close-range header.
Scott McTominay missed out through illness, forwards Lyndon Dykes and Ryan Christie were suspended, while centre-back Grant Hanley and Ryan Fraser withdrew from the squad.
Manager Steve Clarke called up John Souttar on Sunday and the Hearts defender and Stoke forward Jacob Brown were both on the bench.
Meanwhile, Kieran Tierney played with the Arsenal left back 100 per cent fit following an ankle problem and Che Adams started up front.
That stop proved even more crucial when Clarke’s team opened the scoring with a well-worked goal involving John McGinn, whose nice lay-off released Patterson in the box and the full-back then did brilliantly to find the bottom left-hand corner of the goal, the first Rangers player to score for Scotland since Steven Naismith against Lithuania 10 years ago.
The visitors still needed a second goal to be confident of victory and that breathing space came after another fine move involving McGinn, with the Aston Villa midfielder’s clever back-heel releasing Patterson into the area and, from his low cross, the unmarked Adams was there at the far post to side-foot home for his first Scotland goal in eight games.
But Scotland never do things easily and, after Patterson had inexplicably handled in the area, the referee was advised to look at the incident on the pitchside TV monitor, before pointing to the spot.
However, Gordon guessed correctly and dived to his right to keep out Rata’s well-struck spot-kick before Kieran Tierney reacted quickest of all to clear the rebound, seconds before the penalty taker could tap home into an empty net, to ease any Scottish nerves.
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Scotland’s winning run – Opta stats
- Scotland have won seven matches in 2021, their joint-most in any calendar year in their history, also winning seven games in 2007 under Alex McLeish.
- Moldova have lost their last eight World Cup qualifiers, their worst losing run in World Cup qualifying since losing their first 10 matches between September 1996 and October 2000.
- Aged 20 years and 27 days, Nathan Patterson became the youngest Scottish scorer in a competitive match since Darren Fletcher in October 2003 against Lithuania (19y 252d) in a European Championships qualifier.
- Only Paul McStay against Iceland in October 1984 (19y 361d) has scored for Scotland at a younger age in a World Cup qualifier than Nathan Patterson today (20y 27d).
- Scotland have won five consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time since winning six in a row between May and October 2007, while it’s the first time they’ve won five consecutive competitive matches since doing so between April and November 1995 under Craig Brown.
- John McGinn has had a direct hand in more Scotland goals since his international debut in March 2016 than any other player for the Tartan Army (11 goals, 3 assists).
- Scotland’s Craig Gordon – who holds the Premier League record for the most penalties faced without saving one (15) – became the oldest goalkeeper to save a penalty in a European World Cup qualifier (38y 316d) since Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Mokin against France in March (39y 282d).
1998 – Scotland are now guaranteed a play-off spot to qualify for next year’s World Cup, the first time they have finished in the top-two of a World Cup qualifying group since they finished second in qualification for the 1998 World Cup. Dream. pic.twitter.com/DoFP9dZic5
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 12, 2021
Moldova travel to Austria, while Scotland host Group F winners Denmark, with both sides’ final games kicking off at 7.45pm on Monday, and you can see the Scots’ clash live on Sky Sports Football.
Monday 15th November 7:00pm
Kick off 7:45pm