Fletcher fires as Scotland rock Gibraltar
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Scotland 6-1 Gibraltar
The visitors scored the first competitive goal in their history but Steven Fletcher's hat-trick ensured the hosts maintained their Group D push.
Article top media content
• Steven Fletcher hat-trick helps Scotland make it four unbeaten in Group D
• Shaun Maloney adds a pair of penalties for the hosts
• Lee Casciaro's 20th-minute equaliser was visitors' first-ever competitive goal
• Three wins from three for Scots on home turf in the section
• Next qualifiers: Republic of Ireland v Scotland, Gibraltar v Germany (13 June)
Scotland kept up their push at the top of UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group D thanks to a heavy victory over Gibraltar in which Steven Fletcher scored a hat-trick and the visitors made history.
The win, while ultimately comfortable, came after a topsy-turvy opening half-hour that included the Gibraltarians' first-ever competitive strike. Lee Casciaro was the player who wrote his name into his nation's record books, cancelling out Shaun Maloney's 18th-minute penalty with a slick breakaway goal.
Yet that effort – deserved and expertly dispatched though it was – would prove a mere consolation after this Glasgow contest was settled in the space of 11 first-half minutes. That was all it took for Scotland to turn a stalemate into a 4-1 lead, with Fletcher, Maloney and Steven Naismith all on target.
Fletcher, whose scrappy header after 29 minutes settled Scottish nerves, celebrated with particular gusto, and no wonder. It was, after all, just the Sunderland AFC forward's second international goal – and his first in six years. Maloney made it 3-1 five minutes later with another spot kick, repeating the pattern of his first with a firm low conversion that Jamie Robba, while guessing right, was helpless to keep out.
Scotland then moved out of sight when Naismith, who had earned the penalty, scored the pick of their goals. For once, Gibraltar's well-drilled defence was left looking statuesque by the pace of Gordon Strachan's side's interplay and movement as the Everton FC forward exchanged passes with Ikechi Anya before sweeping a left-foot shot home from 12 metres.
The international newcomers are showing genuine signs of improvement, though, and it was to Gibraltar's great credit that they steadfastly refused to crumble. Indeed, Scotland were kept at bay until 13 minutes from time when Fletcher grabbed his second of the game, bulleting home a header from substitute Jordan Rhodes' superb outswinging cross. The final scoreline was certainly a little harsh on the team from the Rock, who conceded a sixth in the final minute, when Fletcher curled in from 18 metres to complete his treble.
Gibraltar will hope to prove just as robust when they go up against world champions Germany in June – this as the Scots face a hugely significant trip to the Republic of Ireland.