Two of Newcastle’s new players Matt Richie and Grant Hanley both started for Scotland last night in the 5-1 win in Malta, but after taking an early lead Malta surprised Scotland by equalizing after 13 minutes and it was still 1-1 at half-time.
But Scotland went on to win 5-1 and made a good start to their World Cup qualifying.
But during that first half it was a little scary for Scotland being held by a side that is ranked 176th in the world.
Scotland are ranked 51st with England 13th, Wales 11th and Northern Ireland 28th.
Scotland’s team before the game in Malta
Hanley at the back – number 5 and Ritchie at front – number 11
Robert Snodgrass of Hull City scored a great hat-trick in what turned out to be a comfortable win for Gordon Strachan’s side after two Malta players were sent off.
Scotland are in the same group F as England, Slovakia and Lithuania – so some tougher tests lie ahead for the Scots.
Speaking to The Scottish Sun after the game Gordon Strachan seemed a relieved man and he picked out Newcastle winger Matt Ritchie as one player for some special praise:
“Everybody had concern. We were lucky we had a bunch of lads who could deal with the stress that manifested itself because of that goal.”
“A lot of teams have not got that.” “It just shows that in a crisis they can deal with it, these players, and that was a crisis at 1-1.”
“The fans went from everybody enjoying themselves to ‘Uh oh’.”
“I thought Barry Bannan was excellent under pressure.”
“Matt Ritchie excellent, Snodgrass just when the pressure was on. They were good and Darren Fletcher, as well, never flinched,”
Matt Ritchie will be gaining from the excellent coaching of Rafa Benitez and he has looked a very good player for the Magpies so far this season.
Matt Ritchie in action for Scotland yesterday
It was good to see the two Newcastle lads get a start last night in what turned out to be a good result in the end for Scotland after a little scare in that first half.
Reading the reports of the match in Scotland today it seems Grant looked a little rusty in the first half, but that’s probably due to him not playing too much at Newcastle yet – that should change soon.
In the same group F England won in Slovakia 1-0 yesterday with a 95th minute winner from Adam Lallana in Sam Allardyce’s debut as the England manager.