Five minutes from time, John McGinn’s stunning overhead kick saved Scotland from a losing start to their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Austria at Hampden on Thursday.
Sasa Kalajdzic’s first international goals took the visitors ahead twice in the second half, but Grant Hanley’s header and a moment of magic from McGinn ensured Scotland’s qualifying campaign did not get off to the worst possible start.
Steve Clarke’s men ended a 22-year wait for a major international tournament by qualifying for the inaugural Euro 2020 tournament in November.
However, with Austria and Denmark as the top seeds in Group F with just one automatic spot at the World Cup up for grabs, they face an uphill struggle to make it to Qatar.
Clarke had encouraged his squad not to become “one tournament wonders,” but Scotland got off to a sluggish start, with Kalajdzic flickering a shot just wide within two minutes before Christoph Baumgartner tested David Marshall from space.
However, as the first half progressed, the home team took charge and had the best opportunity before the break when Ryan Christie was denied by the foot of Alexander Schlager.
The game burst into existence in the second period after a lackluster first minute.
Kalajdzic carried his free-scoring form with Stuttgart in the Bundesliga this season onto the international stage, tapping home the rebound after Marshall had parried Florian Grillitsch’s strong effort.
Stuart Armstrong shot inches wide before Christie was hauled down within the field and not given a penalty as Scotland sought an urgent response.
The home team was also granted a reprieve minutes later when Kalajdzic’s goal was called out for a push on Kierney.
Scotland’s first goal came from an unlikely source, with Hanley marking his return to the starting lineup by slamming home a header from Stephen O’Donnell’s free-kick.
Clarke’s decision to break up a defense that had allowed three goals in six games would be called into doubt.
Jack Hendry was making his first competitive international start in a back three alongside Hanley and Tierney, and it was Hendry who Kalajdzic outjumped to power home a superb header and regain Austria’s lead.
Clarke had moved McGinn into a more advanced position by that time, and the Aston Villa midfielder created a sublime piece of skill late on to hook a long ball forward into the bottom corner with his back to target.