Match report as Scotland secure promotion to Nations League Group A with a goalless draw against Ukraine; Steve Clarke made six changes for the match in Poland as Ryan Porteous made his Scotland debut
John McGinn and Craig Gordon celebrate Scotland’s promotion to Nations League Group A
Scotland secured promotion to the top tier of the Nations League – and a Euro 2024 play-off place – with a hard fought goalless draw against Ukraine.
Missing a number important players, Steve Clarke’s side rode their luck at times as Ukraine created several clear-cut chances.
Andriy Yarmolenko volleyed over the bar before Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon showed his class as he denied Mykhaylo Mudryk and Danylo Ihnatenko.
Scotland did have a penalty claim overturned after a VAR check as they followed up Hampden victories against Ukraine and Republic of Ireland with a point in Poland.
They will now be in Pot Two when the Euro 2024 qualifying draw is made on October 9, with the guarantee of a play-off should it be required.
How a depleted Scotland secured promotion to Group A
Ryan Porteous (R) impressed on his Scotland debut
Steve Clarke’s squad was shorn of several certain starters, mostly in defence.
Grant Hanley, Liam Cooper and skipper Andy Robertson had failed to make the squad for the triple-header due to injury and they were joined on the sidelines by, among others, Kieran Tierney, Nathan Patterson, Scott McKenna and Scott McTominay, the latter suspended, while a virus had also affected the camp.
In the event, there were six changes from the weekend’s win over the Republic of Ireland with 23-year-old Hibernian defender Ryan Porteous pitched in for his debut and Kenny McLean, Greg Taylor, Ryan Jack, Ryan Fraser and Che Adams back in the side.
The match was played in Poland due to Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine and officially there were 3,000 Tartan Army inside the 15,000-capacity stadium making plenty of noise as the Scots started purposefully.
In the second minute, Ukraine ‘keeper Andriy Lunin saved Adams’ strike down at his right-hand post for a corner which was defended.
Ukraine settled and should have gone ahead in the seventh minute when speedy winger Mykhailo Mudryk picked out unmarked captain Andriy Yarmolenko at the back post but he volleyed high over the bar with only Gordon to beat.
There was another let-off for the Scots in the 22nd minute when Artem Dovbyk ran on to Yarmolenko’s wonderful pass and past Porteous, but the veteran Hearts keeper was equal to the shot.
There was drama minutes later when Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos awarded Scotland a penalty for a Taras Stepanenko handball in the box from a Fraser shot but ruled it out after a VAR check.
In the 31st minute, Jack fired over the bar from 16 yards after the Blue and Yellow struggled with another corner, before the unmarked Stepanenko headed over at the other end from a Ukraine corner.
Gordon had two good saves early in the second half, from Mudryk and Danylo Ihnatenko.
Ukraine continued to be foiled by the offside flag but they looked the more likely to make the breakthrough with the sliding Illia Zabarnyi knocking a shot over the bar from close range.
In the 70th minute, as the rain continued to drizzle, Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie and Stephen Kingsley came on for Taylor, Fraser and Jack before Lyndon Dykes replaced Adams.
Scotland had to repel increasing pressure from Ukraine – Stepanenko fired a drive wide – and they battled with everything they had through four minutes of added time to keep the point which has so many positive ramifications.
Man of the match – Ryan Porteous
It was a big game for the Hibernian centre-back to make his debut, but Ryan Porteous proved he deserved his first Scotland cap.
The 23-year-old showed a focus and determination that sometimes is lost on domestic duty.
He read the game brilliantly, stepping in to intercept passes on numerous occasions.
Steve Clarke – We proved how good we are
Scotland manager Steve Clarke was delighted to see his players impress in the Nations League.
“We wanted to show people that what happened in the summer wasn’t us”, he said talking about the defeat to the Republic of Ireland and losing to Ukraine in the World Cup play-offs.
“We wanted to be better this week, we pressed a big button to reset. Three fantastic performances, all different, but all vital.
“Ukraine are a very good team, we knew they’d have moments in the game, and ask Craig (Gordon) to make saves – he did that as he always does.
“Porteous was outstanding for a debut. So pleased for the boy, shows that he listens, that he learns. I’m also so pleased for Jack Hendry – big ask for Jack.
“Everyone expects Callum McGregor and John McGinn to play three games with that intensity, but I had to ask Jack to do that again – he was struggling a bit with a cold, but he was outstanding in all three games.”