Andy Robertson proves he belongs at football’s top table

Andy Robertson makes a saving tackle to stop Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty
Andy Robertson makes a saving tackle to stop Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty
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There was one striking example of Andrew Robertson bringing it all back home for Scots desperate to feel a sense of Champions League occasion.

Among the oodles of articles devoted to the Glaswegian going forward into club football’s greatest game with Liverpool, a headline in one newspaper declared that the full-back’s “heart” would be in “Maryhill” as he faced up to Real Madrid in Kiev, this down to the fact his beloved grandparents reside there.

Surely not since former Partick Thistle centre-back Alan Hansen was forming the bedrock of the all-conquering Liverpool side during the late 1970s and early 1980s have there been any attempts to even tangentially link the gritty north-west outpost of Glasgow with the grand occasion that draws the glitziest of the glitterati.

Mind you, since that period, opportunities to even bring a tartan tinge to the decider of the Big Cup, once known simply as European, and since 1992 the Champions League, have been rarer than hens’ teeth.

Rightly, there was much proud boasting in these parts over Robertson last night becoming the first Scot to play in the final for 21 years – Paul Lambert the previous man to do so with his never-to-be-forgotten in these borders contribution to Borussia Dortmund’s 1997 victory over Juventus. In itself, though, this didn’t do full justice to the Scottish success story that is the ascent to the pinnacle of the game by a 24-year-old who only five years ago was an amateur player at Queen’s Park.

Robertson became only the third Scot to be active on the grandest club football stage in 32 years – Steve Archibald doing so for a Barcelona in their penalty shoot-out defeat by Steaua Bucharest in 1986 – and the 40th in the entire 63-year history of the competition.

In recent decades we stopped believing that anyone with Scottish genes could belong in such exalted company. But Robertson has shown otherwise.

And for that there should have been toasts to his guid health last night.

Robertson’s team may have lost, and the Celt that stamped his name all over the final may have been a Welshman by the name of Gareth Bale – with arguably the most glorious strike in such a final – but the Scotland international practically never put a foot wrong.

If only the same could have been said of the feet, and more pointedly the hands, of his hapless goalkeeper Loris Karius.

Robertson’s marauding runs down the left flank were crucial in the Anfield side’s run to the final.

But last night, Madrid’s regular encroachment into the Liverpool half gave the Scotland international few outlets to go forward.

That meant Robertson had to be disciplined, alert and decisive. Whenever there was a sniff of a threat down Liverpool’s left – and by turns he only had, er, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Isco, Dani Carvajal and Novo for company there – Robertson stepped up and stepped in.

He hustled Ronaldo out of danger early on, and produced a headed clearance to prevent the ball falling for the Portuguese phenomenon, before covering the ground like a whippet to form an unpassable wall for a Modric shot.

Later, as Liverpool sought to hang in and hope for a late rally as they trailed by only one goal entering the closing quarter of an hour, Robertson produced his finest intervention by back-tracking and then sliding in to nick the ball from the toe of Ronaldo just as the Real demigod was winding up to shoot inside the penalty area. His efforts ultimately were in vain.

But in Maryhill, and everywhere from Galloway to Shetland, they are certain to have been acknowledged and appreciated.