John McGinn’s sensational overhead kick highlighted Scotland’s character to twice come from behind to draw 2-2 with Austria at Hampden Park.
Sasa Kalajdzic’s first two goals for his country had twice put the visitors ahead in a rainy Glasgow before McGinn’s heroics, with the in-form Frankfurt striker first firing in the rebound after David Marshall had palmed Florian Grillitsch’s long-ranger into his path (54).
Scotland rarely looked capable of mounting a comeback charge until Grant Hanley’s bullet header from Stephen O’Donnell’s free-kick caught out a hesitant Alexander Schlager in the Austria goal to level 19 minutes from time, before Kalajdzic struck again with an excellent aerial goal of his own to divert Stefan Lainer’s cross into the top corner.
The goal of the game was still to come though in a frantic ending despite the torrential rain, and McGinn proved the man to provide the late leveller with a textbook overhead kick, after Ryan Christie returned a corner into the Austria box.
Scotland keep building Hampden fortress
Even with the stands bare at Hampden, it took Scotland a while to display the kind of confidence that has taken them to Euro 2020 in their first World Cup qualifier, and it seemed only a matter of time before Austria would lead after Kalajdzic and Christoph Baumgartner both fired early warning shots.
Stuart Armstrong should have found the target from 20 yards once Scotland did start to move the ball better on the half-hour, and by the time the half-time whistle came they were into their stride and shading the match, with Schlager needing to be at his best after his own poor pass from the back was snatched by Lyndon Dykes.
That momentum was tempered during the interval and nine minutes after it, Austria took the lead when some static defending allowed Grillitsch space to shoot from distance, and after Marshall’s acrobatic save Kalajdzic caught O’Donnell on his heels to fire in the follow-up.
Scotland should have had a penalty within minutes when Christie was clearly held inside the box from a cross, but the well-placed referee waved play on, before the hosts added to their own misfortune as Armstrong strode through on the left before firing wide when he had to level.
With Scotland still looking unlikely to force an equaliser in open play, Hanley’s first international goal in eight years came from a set-piece as his desire to meet O’Donnell’s excellent delivery saw off Stefan Ilsanker and allowed him to beat Schlager from eight yards.
The euphoric scenes did not last long as nine minutes later Austria had their lead back, when Lainer’s cross was met by a perfect Kalajdzic header to beat Marshall and find the top corner.
Scotland again refused to go under and from another set-piece dug themselves out of another hole with time running out. Christie’s header back into the box from O’Donnell’s corner was met by McGinn, who found himself just onside to beat Schlager with a stunning overhead kick and earn Steve Clarke’s side a point in their World Cup qualifying opener.
What the manager said…
Scotland manager Steve Clarke told Sky Sports: “To come back from behind twice, it shows good character to come back into the game, we’ll take the point.
“I think we’ve progressed as a team, we believe in ourselves a little bit more. We conceded the goal when we were playing well. It’s disappointing to lose the goal the way we did.
“We let ourselves down again for the second with an easy cross into the box, but you can’t keep this team down. They want to keep fighting for their country.
“That’s a John McGinn goal, isn’t it? I thought he was offside when I first saw it, but it was a good decision, a good finish, and we just kept the ball alive. It’s a great finish, and we deserved a point at least.”
- Along with the 2006 and 2014 tournament, Scotland have failed to win each of their last three opening World Cup qualifiers when starting off on home soil, drawing on each occasion (0-0 v Slovenia in 2004 & 0-0 v Serbia in 2012).
- Austria are now unbeaten in their last seven matches (W5 D2), their best run since another run of seven between June and November 2019.
- Grant Hanley’s equaliser was just his second Scotland goal on what was his 30th cap for the Tartan Army (also netting v Wales in March 2013).
- Sasa Kalajdzic netted his first two goals for Austria on what was just his third appearance for his country.
- Aleksandar Dragovic tonight earned his 87th international cap – moving level with Marko Arnautovic. Indeed, only three other players have represented Austria on more occasions than the Bayer Leverkusen defender.
- John McGinn has now scored eight goals in 16 appearances for Scotland under Steve Clarke, more than any other player over this period.
Scotland travel to Israel in their next World Cup Qualifying group game on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Main Event from 7.30pm; kick-off at 7.45pm.