Scotland took another step towards next summer’s European Championship with a 2-0 win over Georgia in the rain-interrupted qualifier at Hampden Park.
A heavy rainstorm leading up to the Group A game had turned the game into a farce in the early stages before midfielder Callum McGregor scored with a shot through the puddles in the sixth minute.
Hungarian referee Istvan Vad immediately stopped the game and confirmed in an announcement that the pitch had to be drained first with a 20-minute delay before an inspection.
The fans raged in the stands until the field was declared playable. The players warmed up again before starting again in the 10th minute, more than 90 minutes after the game was stopped.
In the restart, midfielder Scott McTominay scored a second goal two minutes into the restart – his fifth in four qualifiers – before Georgia star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia missed a VAR-awarded penalty in added time.
Scotland consolidated their top spot in the group, having now taken 12 points from their first four games ahead of their trip to Cyprus in September.
Steve Clarke’s side are eight points clear of Georgia, unbeaten in eight competitive games and on course to reach the finals in Germany, even if the weather almost beat them on their own soil this time.
In a mood of Scottish optimism, a long and rather bizarre night had begun.
After a late comeback win against Norway 2-1 on Saturday night in Oslo – followed by victories over Cyprus and leaders Spain – the Tartan Army’s mood could not have been better.
However, Hampden Park was already soaked when Scotland kicked off and the state of the pitch caused an uproar among fans as passes stopped in puddles and players abandoned the ball as they attempted to march forward.
Scotland’s first goal came when John McGinn’s corner was partially cleared to McGregor from the right and the Celtic captain’s shot from 12 meters out was parried into the net by Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili.
Referee Vad did not continue play, but left the pitch to speak to an official before returning to tell the players that play was to be stopped while the groundsmen – and then some of the ball boys – swept water off the pitch .
Fans had booed the initial announcement of a 20-minute delay and the announcement of a pitch inspection ten minutes later, and were relieved when, after a few more delays, play finally got under way just after 9.30pm.
The pitch was far from perfect but the Scots adapted slightly better, although the delay seemed to have dampened the enthusiasm of the home fans.
Five minutes before the break, McGinn came close with a header from a Kieran Tierney cross before going wide eight yards from goal.
Then McTominay’s angled shot was deflected around the post by Mamardashvili but the visitors held on.
The second half had barely started when McTominay pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the box and fired a low shot past Mamardashvili to reignite the struggling tartan army.
Georgia’s Otar Kiteishvili fired a long-range shot just over the bar after the hour, but there was no real sign of a comeback.
Scotland defender Ryan Porteous headed in a Gilmour cross from close range in the 72nd minute before Georges Mikautadze found the side netting with a shot on the other end.
In the second of four added minutes, referee Vad consulted the fieldside monitor before realizing the ball had struck Aaron Hickey’s arm, but Napoli’s Kvaratskhelia hammered the penalty over the bar.
Ultimately, Scotland will be happy to see a game that at one point seemed more than in doubt come to an end as qualification for their second consecutive European Championship draws ever closer.