This was a Euro 2024 qualifier that fell 41 minutes short of requiring two days to complete after biblical rain caused a delay – six minutes into the game – of around an hour and a half, and a finishing time of 11.19pm.
On the final whistle Steve Clarke’s impressive Scotland had a fourth victory and 12 points and at the midpoint of Group C are already a near-shoo-in to reach next year’s finals in Germany.
What the manager is constructing is an expertly drilled unit burnished by the higher-end talents of Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay (who scored the second), and John McGinn, and which returned a far more complete triumph than the late-match mugging of Norway three days earlier.
To see Lyndon Dykes sprint back to cover a rare Georgia foray as full time neared was instructive of the side’s spirit, as he and his teammates closed proceedings out under the now cleared skies.
The downpour caused Istvan Vad to inspect the pitch but the Hungarian referee was content to play, to the sell-out crowd’s delight. They sang in the rain as Clarke’s men bid to make it four wins in a row, having already beaten Cyprus, Spain and Norway. Georgia had arrived with four points.
Vad may have been happy but the puddles being kicked up when the ball was addressed and a McTominay backheel sticking showed up the conditions and these were about to cause the game’s prolonged pause.
First, on six minutes, Scotland struck via a McGinn corner. The forward floated this over from the right, Dykes made a nuisance of himself, the ball went back and – after it slowed in the water – Callum McGregor smashed home.
Cue Vad running to the touchline, conversing with a Uefa official, then Robertson and the Scotland captain’s opposite number, Guram Kashia, and the game was suspended to allow ground staff to remove enough water to make the surface playable.
When Vad came out for a first inspection 20 minutes later he judged it not to be. So, too, after a second look, at 8.45pm, as the players warmed up. But, finally, following a third assessment, the contest kicked off once more.
This came with Georgia being reluctant to do so, for which they were booed, and Scotland dominated, Robertson and McTominay leading the charge. Otar Kiteishvili, though, was the Georgia No 10 who could see gaps for teammates who struck the ball confidently about between them when allowed.
When Robertson swung in a cross, Dykes skidded across the slippy turf as a flying header looked on before the captain launched a buccaneering raid that took him clean through, but he ran out of space. McTominay, as half-time neared, forced Giorgi Mamardashvili to tip a low shot inches wide, then a McGinn effort was deflected to safety.
Eighty seconds into the second half and the stadium erupted when McTominay steered a sweet left-foot home for his third of the group stage here, and fifth in all. As the jubilant crowd went “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah” to the Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 miles), the song that accompanies Scotland goals at Hampden, their team had a definite stranglehold on the match.
Georgia responded – Georges Mikautadze fed Kiteishvili in the Scotland area but they thwarted the threat and the hosts soon roved downfield where McGregor’s radar, as he shot, was this time awry. McTominay, though, was unstoppable, akin to a battering ram who left those in white trailing, before an attempt, from distance, that was marginally wide.
Billy Gilmour was Clarke’s one change from Saturday’s win against Norway and the midfielder impressed with his movement and continued bravery on the ball, Kiteishvili dumping him to the turf, although it had no effect.
It was Gilmour’s spiralling ball that gave Jack Hendry the chance, with his head, to add a third and though he missed this was immaterial – Khvicha Kvaratskhelia even missing a stoppage-time penalty. Clarke’s side continue to march far ahead on the road to Germany and McTominay paid tribute to those who remained to see their latest triumph: “At the start we were all saying we couldn’t play on the pitch. But we kept our heads and kept to the game plan and we did it really well. We came here to play, the crowd was amazingly patient. They kept us going. We thank them so much.”