Scotland's march towards Euro 2024 cannot be stopped by waterlogged pitch and long delay as Georgia slayed at Hampden

Table toppers, history makers. Scotland were the talk of Raintown last night after one of the most extraordinary international matches ever hosted in the country.

Something unprecedented happened at Hampden and yet Scotland winning a fourth consecutive match at the start of a qualifying game for the first-ever time, thanks to goals from Callum McGregor and Scott McTominay in a 2-0 win over Georgia, wasn’t the biggest talking point, remarkably. Neither was Napoli superstar Khvicha Kvaratskhelia blasting a penalty high over in the final moments after an Aaron Hickey handball. It was already 11.19pm. A longest day before the longest day.

A 99-minute suspension due to rain brought Wimbledon to mind rather than Hampden. Well, it is June after all. Of all the improvements mentioned for the national stadium, a roof hasn’t been one of them. But one was needed here as the heavens opened around an hour before kick-off in an ill-timed deluge which brought a number of logistical problems, not least the threat of the opposition refusing to play.

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This became a very real possibility at about 9.20pm. Scotland were out on the pitch but there was no sign of Georgia. It was like Tallinn all over again. Eventually they did re-emerge although under protest, it seemed.

The Scotland players celebrate Callum McGregor's opener - which came just before the long delay at Hampden.The Scotland players celebrate Callum McGregor's opener - which came just before the long delay at Hampden.
The Scotland players celebrate Callum McGregor's opener - which came just before the long delay at Hampden.

Contingency plans had already been confirmed. If Hampden was still unplayable, the qualifier would resume at St Mirren Park of all places at midday today. A sell-out crowd that had expected to see Scotland strengthen their position at the top of Group A wasn’t in favour of that.

It was surprising the game started at all. Both Scotland manager Steve Clarke and Willy Sagnol, his opposite number, seemed in agreement that the pitch was not playable. Clarke was notably less agitated after Scotland took a sixth-minute lead through McGregor.

Scotland’s second goal from the man living up to the tag of the new Ally McCoist was scored shortly after half-time but with the scoreboard clock showing 10.32pm. Emergency police messages were already flashing up with times for the last train home.

Scotland’s opener was a better goal than anyone could have anticipated given the underfoot conditions although it did seem to owe something to the drenched turf, hence why the referee Istvan Vad chose – or perhaps was told – to take the players off. John McGinn's corner was cleverly headed back by Lyndon Dykes. The ball splatted kindly at the feet of McGregor and he drove home.

Ryan Porteous is submerged by standing water during the early stages of Scotland v Georgia at Hampden.Ryan Porteous is submerged by standing water during the early stages of Scotland v Georgia at Hampden.
Ryan Porteous is submerged by standing water during the early stages of Scotland v Georgia at Hampden.

Georgia were clearly unwilling to kick-off again, perhaps understandably. Their displeasure only intensified when the match finally restarted nearly 100 minutes later with the Scotland goal scored in such farcical conditions allowed to stand – along with the 9 minutes and 40 seconds of play that was on the clock when the players finally disappeared down the tunnel (a VAR review followed McGregor’s goal). It was a wonder they did not leave the pitch two by two.

The first pass from kick-off from Billy Gilmour had splashed rather ominously across the surface. Indeed, why even start the fixture? The Hungarian referee had not even chosen to bounce the ball a few times on the turf after a ferocious localised downpour that started around an hour before kick-off threatened to wash Hampden into the nearby Clyde. It was estimated that six days’ worth of rain had fallen in less than an hour.

It’s been quite some start to Mike Mulraney’s tenure as SFA presidency. A fabulous late win in Norway in the first match since the former Alloa Athletic chairman took over from Rod Petrie and now this, a potential first abandoned Scotland match since a friendly v Spain in Valencia in September 2004.

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Historians were sent scurrying to their books for information on whether a home Scotland match had ever been abandoned. One was in 1963, not because of bad weather surprisingly, but because of “persistent fouling”. English referee Jim Finney was the brave official who ordered both teams to leave the field with Scotland 4-1 up against Austria in a friendly, of all things.

Ground staff worked tirelessly. Even ball boys were recruited. Anyone standing idly by were in danger of having a squeegee thrust into their hands. The pitch failed a first inspection. At just after 8.30 the officials emerged again. By this stage we were onto clips of Gordon Durie scoring against Latvia in 1997 on the big screens. The Hampden archives were being trawled as were the Spotify rain playlists. The Tannoy blasted out Travis’ Why Does it Always Rain On Me and Garbage’s I’m Only Happy When It Rains.

At 8.58pm Callum McGregor flashed up another 10 fingers. 10 more minutes. In actual fact, the overworked Tannoy man – give him a pay rise someone – then confirmed they would actually try and kick off again at 9.15pm. He also asked for the patient fans to show the groundstaff some love, which everyone did. “Best sweeping performance for Scotland since Willie Miller,” someone opined.

More delays, more apparent reluctance from Georgia to leave their dressing room, saw the match finally get underway again at 9.33pm. It all felt slightly surreal.

Dykes bundled an effort just wide from a Robertson cross seven minutes later but precious little happened until near the end of the first half when McGinn miskicked from about nine yards in what was clear proof that the conditions were still having an impact. McTominay also saw a shot tipped past the far post by goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili.

The Manchester United midfielder got his seemingly obligatory international goal on the other side of half time after good work on the left from Robertson. McTominay picked up a loose ball from a position just inside the box and steered a shot in at the near post after Georgia defender Solomon Kverkvelia unwittingly deflected the ball into his path.

It’s a good job Scotland now don’t play again until September. Trench foot’s a nasty business.