Scotland 3-2 Jamaica: Winning World Cup send-off for Scots women

Erin Cuthbert equalises for Scotland with  a superb shot from outside the penalty area. Picture: SNS.
Erin Cuthbert equalises for Scotland with a superb shot from outside the penalty area. Picture: SNS.
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This was a send-off for the women’s national team, a final warm-up game before heading off to their first ever World Cup. It was also a night when the change in attitudes and gathering momentum was obvious.

Before kick off, the nation’s female footballing pioneers were finally given the recognition denied them more than four decades ago.

In 1972, lining up against England, they played in the first-ever Scotland national team but were shunned by the Scottish FA.

As a precursor to the main event, in front of a record crowd, that wrong was righted somewhat as they finally collected their caps.

The fact that more than 18,000 people were inside Hampden to witness it illustrated just how far the sport has come on in the intervening years.

Rather than shunning Shelley Kerr’s squad, the biggest- ever crowd – the previous best for a women’s international was 4,098 – turned up at Hampden, many to cheer on their heroes, others to sate their curiosity and see what all the growing hype is all about, every one of them to wish the history-makers all the best as they head off to France to take their well-earned place on the World Cup stage for the very first time.

When that kicks off, England will again provide the opposition, as the two teams meet in their first group match, in Nice, on 9 June.

But this was far removed from the test they will face against their opponents from across the Border in a couple of weeks. While England fancy their chances of going all the way, Jamaica will be the lowest-ranked team at the tournament and although this was a win, the performance will need to be sharper in the opening matches, if Scotland are to fulfil their ambition of progressing beyond the group stages.

They have that in them, though, having barely moved out of third gear in this one.

Kerr, looking to showcase her best talent and further bolster belief by ensuring they stretched their unbeaten run to five matches before getting on the plane, put out a strong starting line-up.

In the opening spell, it looked like the exhibition match it was, and, while both sides went through the motions, the tempo and intensity were missing.

Heading to a major finals, there was an understandable reticence to go full pelt and risk injury but, with so many new spectators, it was an opportunity to win over thousands of converts and, in the end, they showed what they are capable of, even if it took a goal by Khadija “Bunny” Shaw to give them a kick up the tail.

The first threat was posed when a long ball over the top for Cheyna Matthew was nodded on for the Florida-based striker but, with Jennifer Beattie rising alongside her, she was unable to make a breakthrough.

But picking herself up, she dusted herself down and, when another ball forward for Swaby was not blocked by Beattie, the ball broke for Shaw, who found space on the edge of the area and slammed a left-foot shot past Lee Alexander.

Jolted into life, Caroline Weir almost equalised immediately but her deflected effort fizzed wide of the post. It was enough to get the crowd on their feet, though.

Raising the energy levels and playing with more purpose, the Scots made it clear that they wanted the win.

In the 22nd minute, Claire Emslie slid in to get the ball through to Erin Cuthbert who laid it off for Weir and her dipping effort from distance forced a save from the keeper.

Kim Little was next to test the Jamaicans but her effort was parried.

Cuthbert has been the star of the season and, in the 31st minute, she sent a delightfully nonchalant drive swerving into the postage-stamp corner of the net to restore parity.

When the Chelsea star was felled on the edge of the box a few minutes later, Weir sent the free-kick into the net to take the lead.

Scotland were on top but a slack pass by Sophie Howard early in the second half gifted Jamaica – and Shaw – their second but with pride on the line, the same player found space to head home in the 67th minute for her first goal for her country and secure the win the occasion merited.