GLASGOW: Steven Fletcher became the first Scotland player to score a hat-trick since 1969 as the Scots coasted to a 6-1 victory against Group D minnows Gibraltar at Hampden on Sunday (Mar 29).
Shaun Maloney opened the scoring in the 18th minute after scoring from the spot following a soft penalty award.
That was expected to open the floodgates, but Gibraltar grabbed an equaliser just over a minute later as policeman Lee Casciaro pounced to score his nation’s first competitive goal and spark wild celebrations amongst the 1,000 strong travelling support.
However, Fletcher restored Scotland’s advantage with a 29th-minute header, Maloney added a third with another penalty five minutes later before Steven Naismith made it 4-1 in the 39th minute.
Fletcher headed home his second in the 77th minute before his 90th-minute strike completed his hat-trick – the first by a Scotland player since Colin Stein put four past Cyprus in 1969. The win moves Scotland to second in Group D, level on points with Germany who won 2-0 away to Georgia.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan raised a few eyebrows prior to the match with his team selection with Russell Martin the only recognised centre-half in a three-man defence.
Gibraltar named just one senior professional in their starting line-up as Preston North End defender Scott Wiseman took his place amongst a team made up of a fireman, customs officers and policemen.
However, the side that had conceded 21 goals without return in their previous four games nearly caused an upset in the eighth minute when David Marshall had to scramble to keep Joseph Chipolina’s cross from sneaking in.
Scotland rallied and took the lead when Maloney buried a penalty past Jamie Robba after he went down under a challenge from the ‘keeper.
The home fans had barely begun celebrating when they were stunned into silence when Casciaro equalised a minute later. A quick breakaway saw him collect a defence-splitting pass before sending a fine finish through the legs of Marshall in goal.
Scotland restored their lead when a weak Fletcher header crept in as the much-maligned Sunderland striker ended a six-year international goal-drought.
The hosts were then awarded another penalty when Naismith was hacked down and Maloney expertly dispatched the spot-kick. The home side added a fourth before the break when Ikechi Anya broke into the box and cut the ball back for Naismith, who drilled it into the net.
Substitute Jordan Rhodes fired a fierce strike into the side netting before Scotland eventually made it 5-1 in the 77th minute. Rhodes was the provider as he swung in a sensational delivery from the right for Fletcher to send a downward header bouncing past Robba. Fletcher then completed the scoring as he arrowed a shot beyond Robba in the 90th minute.
Results in Euro 2016 qualifying:
Georgia 0 Germany 2
At Glasgow, Scotland
Scotland 6 Gibraltar 1
Republic of Ireland 1 Poland 1
Northern Ireland 2 Finland 1
At Ploiesti, Romania
Romania 1 Faroe Islands 0
Hungary 0 Greece 0
At Elbasan, Albania
Albania 2 Armenia 1
Portugal 2 Serbia 1