GORDON Strachan described the experience of Scotland’s 6-1 win over Gibraltar as a “misery” as he admitted his decision to change his system against the international minnows failed to meet his expectations.
Despite the ultimately convincing nature of the victory which keeps his squad firmly in contention for a place at next year’s Euro 2016 finals, Scotland manager Strachan saw them become the first team ever to concede a competitive goal to Uefa newcomers Gibraltar.
Lee Casciaro, a 33-year-old officer in the Royal Gibraltar Police force, scored for the part-timers at Hampden to make the score 1-1 midway through the first half.
Scotland recovered to claim all three Group D points with something to spare as Steven Fletcher scored the nation’s first international hat-trick since Colin Stein against Cyprus 46 years ago.
And the team’s hopes of qualifying for the finals were given a further boost a few hours later when the Republic of Ireland and Poland both dropped points in a 1-1 draw in Dublin.
But Strachan was left to reflect on the agonies he went through as Scotland struggled to implement his switch to an unaccustomed 3-4-3 system in the first half. He reverted to his familiar 4-2-3-1 set-up at half-time.
“I have to say that all the credit should really go to Gibraltar, they made my life a misery for periods of that game,” said Strachan.
“They made it a long game for me as a coach, so well done to them. It did get us four goals, but I was expecting that system to work a lot better than it did in the first half.
“But the Gibraltar goal sort of threw us a bit. Within any system, you are hoping your players will play to a level, but in the first ten minutes we gave the ball away eight or nine times. That’s too much at international level, no matter who you are against.
“I was scratching my head at times. On Saturday, we had a practice game on this surface. I have to say it’s the best I’ve seen for a long time from an international team in practice. We had 22 players closing each other down, we played 12-a-side and the football was terrific. I expected the same thing today. There was some nice stuff at times, but other stuff that wasn’t so great.
“We spent all week on attacking and width but we really fell asleep for the Gibraltar goal, taking it for granted that they wouldn’t attack and they did. We were caught walking out when the move should have been walking back the way. So that made for an interesting couple of minutes.
“Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon love me now. They think I’m the best manager in the world for not picking them for this game as they’re not in the history books as the first goalkeeper to concede a goal against Gibraltar.
“Unfortunately David Marshall will always be that name now who is the subject of quiz questions everywhere.”
Strachan, however, can be satisfied overall with the first half of Scotland’s Group D campaign which has seen them collect ten points from five games, suffering just one defeat to world champions Germany. “Well done to my players today because there were players out there who personally weren’t having a great game but they stuck at it,” he added.
“Nobody got booked, which I liked, I wanted that. It was nice to see Steven Fletcher score a hat-trick, I thought he was one of our better players today. I was here at Hampden when Colin Stein scored four against Cyprus, which was a long time and a few stones ago.
“After five games I am delighted with where we are. We have ten points, I think we are all happy with that. We can go into the second half of this group feeling quite good about ourselves.
“I look back at the performances in the group and I think the four prior to this have been terrific. This was not one of our best but we got through it.
“We scored six goals and if we had woken up this morning and said we would score six, we would have settled for that. I wouldn’t have wanted the one against us, but that’s the way football works sometimes. So it’s been a good old day for everybody today, including Gibraltar.”
David Wilson, the Scottish coach of Gibraltar, savoured his team’s momentous goal and believes they could cause his homeland more problems when the teams meet again at the end of the campaign in Faro.
“The hardest bit for me was the Scottish national anthem,” said Wilson. “That’s where it all flooded back to me, standing there against my home nation. It was a bit of a tear-jerking moment for me. Every emotion went through me when we got our goal. We came here to create history and we showed we are not a team who just sit on the edge of our own penalty area.
“I had a feeling it was a moment which wouldn’t last – and it didn’t – but it was a fantastic feeling. Each game we get stronger and we play Scotland last in the group. I’m not naive enough to say we will get a result, but if Scotland are playing us under a lot of pressure, then it’s a horrible thought for me that it could be us that ruins their party.
“We will get something against someone some day.”