Steven Fletcher bags hat-trick as Scotland rout Gibraltar
Euro 2016 qualifying, Estadio Algarve - Gibraltar 0 Scotland 6 (Martin 25, Maloney 39, S. Fletcher 52, 56, 85, Naismith 90)
Scotland rounded off a disappointing Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a convincing win against a game but heavily overmatched Gibraltar side in Portugal.
Steven Fletcher plundered a hat-trick while Chris Martin, Shaun Maloney and substitute Steven Naismith also found the net in a rout that will provide boss Gordon Strachan with little cheer as he ponders whether to lead Scotland into next year’s start of the qualification process for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Gibraltar, meanwhile, earned the dubious distinction of breaking San Marino’s record for goals conceded in a 10-game qualification run, with Scotland’s six-goal haul on Sunday taking the minnows to an eye-watering total of 56.
The damage could have been far worse; Andy Robertson and Alan Hutton ran riot down the flanks as Scotland besieged the unfortunate Jamie Robba's goal whenever the fancy took them and Maloney combined beautifully with substitutes Naismith and Johnny Russell as the minnows tired.
But even Scotland's biggest win for nine years will provide scant consolation to Strachan when he watches Euro 2016 from afar next summer.
Steven Naismith celebrates with Steven Fletcher and Johnny Russell after scoring the sixth goal for ScotlandReuters
3' - CHANCE: Fletcher breaks the offside trap and dinks the ball over Robba towards a stretching Maloney, who can only loop the ball onto the roof of the net with the goal gaping. Should be 1-0 already.
24' - CHANCE: Ritchie curls a delightful in-swinging cross from the right and Maloney's firm header forces Robba's best save yet.
25' - GOAL! Gibraltar 0-1 Scotland. The breakthrough finally arrives as Greer flicks on Maloney's corner with a looping header that takes out Robba and Martin nudges the ball over the line at the back post.
35' - CHANCE: Brown beats two men and slips in Martin who drills the ball low across the box, and Fletcher's scuffed effort dribbles onto the post before being cleared.
39' - GOAL! Gibraltar 0-2 Scotland. Hutton has his man on toast and after another surge to the byline sparks chaos in the Gibraltar penalty area the ball eventually finds Maloney, who takes a touch before curling beautifully into the top corner.
45' - CHANCE: Maloney's free-kick his flicked goalward by Martin and Robba bundles the ball behind with Dorrans in close attendance.
Steven Fletcher celebrates with Shaun Maloney after scoring the fourth goal for ScotlandReuters
52' - GOAL! Gibraltar 0-3 Scotland. It's Hutton again down the right, beating his man easily and clipping a cross right onto the head of Fletcher, who sends Robba the wrong way with a calm finish.
56' - GOAL! Gibraltar 0-4 Scotland. Martin plays Fletcher into a shooting position on the right of the box and the Sunderland striker sends a low effort in off the far post with his left foot. This has long promised to be a rout and now it's becoming one.
67' - CHANCE: Martin plays in Russell with a tidy reverse pass but the Derby County man fires over with a big target to aim at.
85' - GOAL! Gibraltar 0-5 Scotland. It's a second hat-trick against this team for Fletcher, and he completes it in some style - with a left-footed curler from outside the box that kisses the crossbar before bouncing over the line.
88' - CHANCE: Russell and Maloney combine beautifully as the Derby County man darts into the box but after swivelling nicely he shoots straight at Robba.
90+1' - GOAL! Gibraltar 0-6 Scotland. Naismith gets in on the act, running onto a Fletcher lay-off and curling the ball smartly into the bottom corner.
- This result means that Gibraltar have now conceded more goals (56) than any other side in a 10-game qualification process, beating the previous record held by San Marino (53).
- This is Scotland's biggest victory since beating the Faroe Islands 6-0 at Celtic Park on September 2, 2006 - nine years ago.
Too little, too late for Scotland
As he watched his side utterly dominate and pick apart Gibraltar at Estadio Algarve, Gordon Strachan could have been forgiven for wishing his side had exhibited even a hint of such confidence and creativity against Georgia last month.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan before the matchReuters
Defeat in Tbilisi extinguished a Euro 2016 qualifying campaign that once burned so brightly and, as footballing processions go, this felt more like a funeral march. The underlying futility of their dominance never left Scotland, who half-heartedly celebrated their goals against what is now officially the leakiest defence in European qualifying history.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Alan Hutton (Scotland) Effectively played as a winger, surging forward at every opportunity and beating the hapless duo of Joseph Chipolina and Ryan Casciaro with regularity and ease. He was Scotland's most consistent attacking threat and, on another night, might have had six assists of his own.
Gibraltar: Robba 6, Garcia 3, Barnett 3, R. Casciaro 3, R. Chipolina 5, J. Chipolina 2, Walker 6, D. Duarte 3, Bardon 3, L. Casciaro 2, K. Casciaro 2. Subs: Yome 2, J.P. Duarte 2.
Scotland: McGregor 6, Hutton 9, Berra 6, Greer 7, Robertson 8, Maloney 8, Dorrans 7, Brown 7, Ritchie 7, Martin 7, S. Fletcher 8. Subs: Russell 6, Naismith 7, D. Fletcher 7.