Matt Ritchie breaks Scotland duck with winner in Qatar clash
Scotland warmed up for their crunch Euro 2016 qualifier away to the Republic of Ireland with a comfortable home win over Qatar, who are 2022 World Cup hosts for now.
Bournemouth winger Matt Ritchie struck his first international goal towards the end of a first-half that Gordon Strachan’s side dominated.
Having 10 attempts, but only three on target before the break, Scotland also struck the base of the Qatari post through Steven Naismith, who played up front with regular centre forward Steven Fletcher carrying a knock.
Strachan handed starts to Celtic pair Charlie Mulgrew and James Forrest, both back in contention following injury, and the duo were involved in early openings.
Forrest pulled back from the left for Naismith on the quarter-hour, but his shot went straight at the visiting keeper. A subsequent effort from the Everton and ex-Rangers forward was tipped over too.
Mulgrew then saw a flicked header from the resultant corner drop wide. Ritchie volleyed off target before rifling in the opener five minutes before half-time.
Naismith sought to thread midfield runner James McArthur through, but this attempt was blocked and only fell to Cherries wideman Ritchie to fire home with the aid of a slight deflection.
Scotland attacker Naismith was involved again in stoppage time, yet his clever run and cute finish only round the base of the far post. He then saw a header from Ritchie’s deep corner go wide five minute after the interval.
Mere moments before being substituted, Naismith struck a superb volley into the side-netting, but his night ended without a goal but another industrious display.
Charlie Adam and Lee Griffiths made their respective international returns after more than year long exiles, yet there was no second goal even though this pair combined and the latter had the ball in the net late on only to be flagged offside.
Qatar’s threat was sporadic at best with Scottish stoppers David Marshall and Craig Gordon making one save apiece. Doing battle in Dublin will be a much sterner rest of Strachan’s side and their credentials, and the Tartan Army are 11/10 to be at the Euro 2016 finals.