SCOT Gemmill’s Under 19 squad offered up plenty of hope for the future as they produced an excellent display full of attacking guile with exciting young Celtic full-back Kieran Tierney providing both goals for Aidan Nesbitt and Chelsea midfielder Ruben Sammut as Scotland cruised to victory in Limerick in their opening European qualifier.
In a week where Scottish football has taken a long and usually depressing hard look at itself, Gemmill’s kids provided a much-needed tonic. Comfortable on the ball, skilful and well-organised, Scotland could and should have demolished the Baltic nation, but will be perfectly satisfied with a good afternoon’s work, with further games tomorrow against Slovenia and hosts Ireland next week to come.
As well as Tierney and the two scorers, Nottingham Forest winger Oliver Burke showed why he has just been handed a new three-year deal and Celtic midfielder Joe Thomson also impressed, but there were no failures in a morale-boosting Scottish performance.
But hard-to-please Gemmill insisted his side could still have done better. He pointed out: “It was a very good performance from us for the first 70 minutes but I was disappointed in the last 20 minutes because Latvia had too many chances.
“The boys let their levels drop towards the end and they know that and I’ve spoken to them about it. But I don’t want that to detract from a very good start, a good performance and a good win. They are proving to be a difficult team to beat. These players are showing why they deserve to play for Scotland.”
It was no surprise when Gemmill’s side took a well-deserved lead midway through the first half with a goal made at Parkhead. Tierney – who was causing mayhem down the left – cut the ball back to Nesbitt who drilled in a composed finish.
Only Latvia’s keeper was keeping the scoreline down, with Tierney and Forest winger Burke on the other flank causing the Baltic nation all kinds of problems.
A minute before the break the Scots deservedly doubled their advantage and again Tierney was the provider on the left wing. He raced to the by-line before cutting the ball back to the onrushing Sammut who easily netted.
Ryan Hardie and Kilmarnock’s Greg Kiltie both went close soon after the restart as Scotland continued to both dominate and play some very easy-on-the-eye football despite a sticky surface. The one-way procession continued and, although the Scots couldn’t extend their advantage, it was an impressive display.
Burke insisted they could take plenty of positives from the performance. He said: “That’s a great start for us. We’ve got a fantastic side here.
“I think a few teams under-estimate us but we’ve got quality all around the park. It got a bit messy late on – we should have just kept the ball and seen the game out.
“We got a bit excited and wanted more goals. But we still won 2-0 and that’s all that matters, it sets us up nicely for Sunday.”
SCORERS: Scotland - Nesbitt (22’), Sammut (44’)