Scotland failed to sign off on the unqualified success of theirEuro 2024 qualifying campaign with a victory to inspire dreams of delirium inGermany next summer, as the loss of a late equaliser saw them slip to a 3-3draw with Norway at Hampden.
Twice behind to visitors whose own hopes of qualification hadlong since been killed off, the Scots were forced to battle and scrap their way back intothe lead with half an hour of this game remaining.
And Steve Clarke might even feel that his team, who found thenet via a John McGinn penalty, a Leo Ostigard own goal and a thumping Stuart Armstrongstrike, were worthy of a 3-2 victory in their final competitive fixture before theymake their second major finals appearance on his watch as head coach.
But former Celtic winger Mo Elyounoussi’s back-post headerwith five minutes remaining saw the visitors salvage a point that meant nothingto either side, on a night when the Scots put in a lot of effort – and produceda fair bit of entertainment for the home crowd.
Does the result matter? No. Not in the grand scheme of acampaign that ended with Clarke taking a look at some of his fringe players inthis contest. A tactic that very nearly cost Scotland during a torrid start tothe game.
On a night when everyone anticipated a party, with the moodat kick-off very much on the festive side of celebratory, Aron Donnum cuttingagainst the grain to open the scoring for the visitors after just three minutesfelt almost rude. Like a gate crasher barrelling through the front door,helping himself to your finest whisky and then commandeering the sound systemto treat everyone to some A-ha deep cuts and B-sides.
Tartan Army favourite McGinn was having none of it, naturally.And he deserves enormous credit not just for equalising from the spot with 12minutes gone, but for initially wining the free-kick that eventually led to thehandball offence by Donnum, who was having an eventful evening.
Norway putting themselves back into the lead before 20minutes had elapsed, with Jorgen Larsen claiming a finish that might have gonedown as a Zander Clark own goal, confirmed the growing feeling that this wasgoing to be a night full of incident.
And, sure enough, it only took another 12 minutes or so forScotland to equalise for a second time, the luckless Leo Ostigard getting thefinal touch after Kenny McLean had flicked on Scott McTominay’s in-swinging cornerfrom the left.
The stage was now set for Armstrong to send the Hampden crowdroaring with delight when he put Scotland 3-2 up just before the hour mark.
Armstrong and McGinn, Clark’s very own Dangerous Brothers,both showed great battling quality on the left-hand side, before playing a neatlittle-exchange of passes that ended with the former smashing the latter’s cut-backlow and hard beyond a despairing Egil Selvik.
The community singing was in full swing by the time Elyounoussipopped up to temporarily mute the home fans, many of whom stayed behind for a deservedlap of honour by Scotland, whose efforts over the course of seven gamesrendered the eighth no more than an entertaining dead rubber.