Lyndon Dykes’ 86th-minute effort salvaged a vital Scotland win over the Faroe Islands and kept their World Cup qualifying bid on track.
Steve Clarke’s side were often tepid and impotent, but the late victory ensures they retain a four-point cushion in second place in group F.
Scotland were lucky to be level at half-time after their unfancied hosts squandered a glut of chances.
But Dykes’ fourth straight goal spared them the ignominy of dropped points.
The striker’s intervention was subject to a long VAR check, as officials determined whether the ball had struck his arm en route to the net.
Crucially, the win preserved Scotland’s lead over third-placed Israel with two games remaining. Maximum points in Moldova next month would seal second and a berth in the play-offs.
You have to swipe along to page three of FIFA’s world rankings before catching sight of the Faroe Islands, perched in 114th place, nearly 70 spots below Scotland. But under Hakan Ericson, they no longer represent the gimme fixture most in world football once reckoned them to be. Ericson’s men beat Moldova last month; runaway group winners Denmark only emerged from Torshavn with a similarly late 1-0 triumph.
Perhaps burdened by the weight of history, talk of the heinous 2-2 draw in 2002, or the magnitude of the fixture, Scotland seemed spooked in the early throes. Their attacking play was too soporific against a diligent and determined opposition, whose confidence only grew with every foray downfield. Clarke’s defence, bolstered by the return of hulking Grant Hanley, was bamboozled by a flurry of Faroese raids, at least one of which should have delivered a goal.
Scots were having palpitations when Brandur Hendriksson spooned a glorious chance astray. A full-blown cardiac arrest was in the offing soon after. Goalkeeper Teitur Gestsson’s hopeful thump downfield bounced into the away box and was squared for Ari Jonsson, whose point-blank shot was clawed clear fabulously by Craig Gordon. Another chance was spurned seconds later, Sonni Nattestad heading Hendriksson’s vicious, swerving delivery over.
Even centre-back Odmar Faero, who had spells in the Highland League and with Forfar Athletic while a student in Aberdeen, came closer to a deadlock-shattering effort than anything Scotland could muster, his rasping 25-yard drive deflected wide off Hanley.
In amongst the strife, Scott McTominay, whose stoppage-time winner against Israel sent Hampden berserk, and Ryan Christie offered signs of an attacking pulse. Twice the Manchester United midfielder scudded off Gestsson from the right. Christie scurried free on the opposite flank but his cut-back was waylaid on its path to Dykes by a forest of Faroese calves. The Bournemouth man was then booked for a dangerous aerial challenge, ruling him out of the Moldova clash.
Come half-time, the hosts had mustered four shots on target to Scotland’s two. Clarke’s side needed an infusion of tempo and accuracy.
They were a little sharper in the new half as they looked to take a grip of the contest. Christie, again, down the left, was felled by a clumsy challenge in the box but had already been flagged offside. McTominay, again, breaking in from the right, lashed into the side netting at Gestsson’s near post.
Still, fluency and ruthlessness eluded the Scots. Gestsson remained largely unflustered. The home fans, clapping and bouncing along to their jaunty chants, grew ever emboldened.
More stress was to come. The roof nearly came off Torsvollur when Gili Rolantsson turned Andy Robertson inside out before cutting back to Hallur Hansson, who whipped just wide from 18 yards.
Then Dykes, another walking the disciplinary tightrope, was cautioned. He, too, will be unavailable in Chisinau and how Clarke will miss him.
As time ticked on, with 15 minutes remaining, Billy Gilmour side-footed at Gestsson after breaking into the box from a rare flash of incision. Then Fraser floated a wonderful ball in from the right, only for John McGinn to nod into the Faroese stopper. Gilmour shifted beautifully onto his left foot and rifled inches wide from the edge of the area. Anxieties heightened.
Salvation arrived – as it so often has in this nerve-shredding campaign – through Dykes, the combative striker. With normal time almost up, he galloped into the box, and when Nathan Patterson whipped in from the right, Horour Ashkham cannoned the ball off the Scot’s chest and into the net.
More drama was to follow, for this side seldom produce the mundane or the straightforward. Clarke, his players, and virtually the whole nation faced an agonising wait as VAR intervened, examining whether Dykes had diverted home with an arm. Eventually, the goal was given. Joy. Jubilation. Relief.
A night which threatened to end in anguish for so long yielded another whale of a win and how thrilled Scotland will be to escape the Faroes three precious points richer. The Scottish rollercoaster hurtles on apace.
- 4VatnsdalSubstituted forAskhamat 59′minutes
- 8Hendriksson OlsenBooked at 90mins
- 3DavidsenSubstituted forKnudsenat 59′minutes
- 6HanssonSubstituted forFrederiksenat 90+1′minutes
- 14EdmundssonSubstituted forAndrasson Olsenat 90+5′minutes
- 11Andrasson Olsen
- 13HendrySubstituted forMcGregorat 68′minutes
- 5HanleyBooked at 82mins
- 20FraserSubstituted forPattersonat 83′minutes
- 4McTominayBooked at 90mins
- 14GilmourSubstituted forCooperat 90′minutes
- 11ChristieBooked at 38minsSubstituted forNisbetat 83′minutes
- 9DykesBooked at 67mins
Match ends, Faroe Islands 0, Scotland 1.
Second Half ends, Faroe Islands 0, Scotland 1.
John McGinn (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Hørdur Askham (Faroe Islands).
Scott McTominay (Scotland) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Gilli Rólantsson (Faroe Islands).
Attempt saved. Callum McGregor (Scotland) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Scott McTominay.
Substitution, Faroe Islands. Klæmint Andrasson Olsen replaces Jóan Símun Edmundsson.
Kevin Nisbet (Scotland) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Ari Mohr Jonsson (Faroe Islands).
Andrew Robertson (Scotland) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Brandur Hendriksson Olsen (Faroe Islands).
Substitution, Faroe Islands. John Frederiksen replaces Hallur Hansson.
Brandur Hendriksson Olsen (Faroe Islands) is shown the yellow card.
Scott McTominay (Scotland) is shown the yellow card.
Scott McTominay (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Brandur Hendriksson Olsen (Faroe Islands).
Substitution, Scotland. Liam Cooper replaces Billy Gilmour.
Goal! Faroe Islands 0, Scotland 1. Lyndon Dykes (Scotland) with an attempt from very close range to the bottom right corner.
Corner, Scotland. Conceded by Hørdur Askham.