Football Features

‘Take note Gerrard’ — McGinn continues international hot streak as Scotland leapfrog Ukraine in Nations League group

By Ben Green

‘Take note Gerrard’ — McGinn continues international hot streak as Scotland leapfrog Ukraine in Nations League group

Published: 21:56, 21 September 2022

Scotland have exacted revenge from June’s World Cup qualifying defeat to Ukraine by brushing past the nation in a convincing 3-0 triumph at Hampden Park, moving them atop Group B1 in the Nations League as a result.

It was a thoroughly one-sided affair in Glasgow as Steve Clarke’s men peppered Anatoliy Trubin’s net. The towering 21-year-old resisted for much of the contest, but his resolve was eventually broken 20 minutes from time. And from there, the floodgates opened.

Scotland pressed and probed in the opening 45 minutes, attacking with relish and equally subduing the attacking threats of highly-rated winger Mykhaylo Mudryk and seasoned skipper Andriy Yarmolenko, both of whom barely had a sniff, as Clarke’s side applied concerted pressure.

The breakthrough eventually came through Aston Villa workhorse John McGinn, who struck a powerful low drive past a hapless Trubin. It was a deserved lead from the hosts, who must have been thinking that it just wasn’t going to be their night.

Eager to freshen things up and embellish his side with renewed vigour and invention, Clarke rolled the dice to bring on Lyndon Dykes for the tireless Che Adams. The Southampton sharp-shooter missed his fair share of gilt-edged opportunities, but his persistence and link-up play were exceptional.

His replacement on the night, though, stole the headlines. As the clock struck the 80-minute mark, Dykes was on the scoresheet, four minutes after his introduction. Seven minutes later, he put the gloss on a comprehensive 3-0 win, completing his quick-fire brace.

The Gold Coast-born attacker rubbed some of his own gold dust on Scotland’s national arena, but it was the skipper whom Clarke can credit with his side’s definitive moment. The 27-year-old covered every blade of grass and stretched every sinew for the cause, earning his deadlock-breaker in the process.

Struggling (to a degree) at club level, as Aston Villa perch precariously above the relegation zone in these infant stages of the Premier League season, McGinn’s form has never wavered for his country. He is Scotland’s heartbeat, and funnily enough, one of their most reliable goal-getters.

Incredibly, since he last scored for Aston Villa, McGinn has now scored three goals for Scotland. His last finish for the Villans came in November 2021. Since then for Scotland, he has bagged against Austria, Armenia and now Ukraine. Steven Gerrard would have done well to catch a glimpse of this game and take note of Clarke’s tactical blueprint for his midfield terrier.