Anthony Ralston and Scott McKenna scored their first international goals as Scotland swept past Armenia in their Nations League opener at Hampden.
A week after the painful World Cup play-off loss to Ukraine, Steve Clarke’s side were utterly dominant.
Headers from Ralston and McKenna made it 2-0 at halftime after Stuart Armstrong and Andy Robertson closed in.
John McGinn shook the crossbar late but a third goal wouldn’t come.
As the rain fell, Scotland created a flurry of chances in the opening minutes as Armstrong clipped the post and Robertson’s low shot was fended off by David Yurchenko’s fingertips.
Celtic full-back Ralston, making his first start, was central to the initial promise, creating both chances with his solid run on the right.
A header from Jack Hendry was easily saved and McGinn launched a venomous free kick a few yards too high as the one-way traffic continued.
En route to victory against the Republic of Ireland in sweltering conditions at the weekend, Armenia simply sat back and gave up the ball. In the Glasgow rain, their wary approach was even more pronounced as the visitors’ back five rarely ventured more than a few yards from the penalty area.
It was difficult to find a way through such congestion, so Armstrong went over the top to break the deadlock, the Southampton midfielder curling a gentle cross towards the back post area where Ralston rose to nod expertly.
A similar cross in the same area then found Che Adams, who sent the ball past Ryan Christie only for the Bournemouth striker to smack an awkward half-volley into the stands when the net was gaping.
The second goal couldn’t have been simpler, with McKenna too strong for his opponent as he waited for a corner from McGinn to dive over his head inside the penalty area.
The towering Nottingham Forest defender, a sure-footed presence all evening, was denied a second by VAR on the stroke of half-time when he swerved slightly offside to meet a header from Adams.
Scotland were slower to come out of the blocks after the interval, with Christie wayward with a header before the irrepressible Ralston was fired on.
Ralston is a player reborn under the high-octane coaching of Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou. After making a solitary appearance in 2020-21, this was the 23-year-old’s 49th game this season.
And the first departures for your country are hardly improving. He was a perpetual motion blur on the flank and didn’t give in as some of his teammates chose to conserve energy after the break.
There was a wide grin on Ralston’s face as he walked off the pitch to enthusiastic applause in the 75th minute – and not just because his withdrawal coincided with a torrential downpour.
Amid the hail of stair rods, McGinn fired a rising shot against the crossbar and a deflected shot from Scott McTominay squirmed before another McGinn rocket whistled.
Armenia, ranked 53rd in the world rankings below Scotland in 92nd, had two breakaway chances all night, both resulting in comfortable saves for Craig Gordon.
Man of the Match – Anthony Ralston
What have we learned?
Scotland face much tougher tests in this group, with Ukraine set to cross paths with them twice again in September, but it was essential Clarke’s men shrugged off the pain of that United Nations semi-final defeat. jump-offs to get off to a winning start.
The way to victory was also adamant, with Scotland coming out of the traps and wrapping up the game before half-time.
Another goal or two would have been a nice reward for the large Hampden crowd, but Clarke will be delighted with the response from his side after some scathing criticism.
Ralston’s emergence is a huge plus and six changes to the starting line-up speak to a squad depth that will be important over the next two games.
And then ?
Scotland then travel to Dublin on Saturday (17:00 BST) before Armenia play hosts on Tuesday.
- 23RalstonReplaced bypattersonat 76′minutes
- 8Mc GregorBooked at 42 mins
- 3RobertsonReplaced byhickeyat 76′minutes
- 17S ArmstrongReplaced byMcTominayat 75′minutes
- tenAdamReplaced byBrownat 87′minutes
- 11ChristieReplaced byStewartat 87′minutes
- 3HaroyanBooked at 45 mins
- sevenBayramianReplaced byDashyanat 89′minutes
- 5GrigorianReplaced byAngleat 45′minutesBooked at 90 minutes
- 8SpertsianBooked at 67 minsReplaced byYou doat 71′minutes
- 13HovhannisyanReplaced byVoskanianat 45′minutes
- 22adamianReplaced byBitchakhchyanat 45′minutes
- 17You do
- Sebastien Gishamer
Match ends, Scotland 2, Armenia 0.
Second Half ends, Scotland 2, Armenia 0.
Wbeymar Angulo (Armenia) is shown the yellow card for bad foul.
Jacob Brown (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Wbeymar Angulo (Armenia).
Foul by Jacob Brown (Scotland).
Tigran Barseghyan (Armenia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by John McGinn (Scotland).
Wbeymar Angulo (Armenia) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt saved. John McGinn (Scotland) left footed shot from outside the box sees his effort blocked. Assisted by Scott McTominay.
Attempt saved. Tigran Barseghyan (Armenia) left footed shot from the center of the six yard box sees his shot blocked. Assisted by Vahan Bichakhchyan.
Replacement, Armenia. Artak Dashyan replaces Khoren Bayramyan.
Scott McKenna (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Tigran Barseghyan (Armenia).
Failed attempt. John McGinn (Scotland) left footed shot from outside the box is just slightly too high. Assisted by Callum McGregor.
Replacement, Scotland. Jacob Brown replaces Che Adams.
Replacement, Scotland. Ross Stewart replaces Ryan Christie.
Offside, Armenia. Wbeymar Angulo tries a through ball, but Khoren Bayramyan is caught offside.
Offside, Armenia. Hrayr Mkoyan tries a through ball, but Tigran Barseghyan is caught offside.
Foul by Jack Hendry (Scotland).