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Scotland 2-0 Armenia: Anthony Ralston revels in special first start at Hampden

Anthony Ralston broke the deadlock against Armenia with an impressive header
Anthony Ralston broke the deadlock against Armenia with an impressive header

“To make my first start and to get my first goal, it’s a lot to take in.”

With two more Scotland games to come in the next six days, Anthony Ralston may not have time to dwell on his impressive showing against Armenia.

But when the dust does eventually settle on this marathon season, the 23-year-old can be very satisfied.

Having established himself as a regular at Celtic, he might just be on the brink of doing the same for his country.

Ralston was in the thick of the action from the first whistle at a rain-soaked Hampden, setting up two near things for Stuart Armstrong and Andy Robertson before opening the scoring with a strong back-post header.

He continued to power up and down the right wing for 75 minutes, earning himself a warm ovation from the Tartan Army and the man-of-the-match award.

  • Scotland soothe play-off pain with win over Armenia

“It felt amazing,” he told Premier Sports immediately after the 2-0 Nations League victory.

“I enjoyed every minute of it and I’m just happy to have contributed to the team.

“It’s a very proud moment, my family and my wee girl were here tonight, to be standing there singing the national anthem will live with me forever.”

His goal came on 28 minutes when he rose to nod home a lovely cross from Armstrong.

“I just tried to get myself in at the back post, I’ve headed it down and at the angle that I was at I didn’t know if it was going it but I could see it hit the net so that was another proud moment,” he beamed in front of the TV cameras.

“It’s every kid’s dream to play for your country, score for your country, so to have done that is quite special.”

‘A good night for everyone’

Scott McKenna got the other goal before half-time, also his first for Scotland, and the Nottingham Forest centre-back could have been celebrating a quick-fire double had the VAR cameras not picked up his offside when he knocked the ball over the line again just before the break.

“I had no real doubts about Tony because he plays for Celtic and they come up against opposition who sit and defend and make it difficult for them,” said manager Steve Clarke.

“I knew he would find the right position on the pitch and certainly when he got the goal it was definitely the right position.

“Scott did well, I thought the whole back-three did well as a unit.

“If he hadn’t been quite so impetuous and got himself half a step offside he would have had a double tonight. It was a good night for everyone.

“I think the key was just to keep the tempo in the game, the rhythm in the game, and to keep looking for weak spots and eventually we opened them up.

“We knew it wouldn’t be easy, they showed a little bit of threat on counter-attacks as well. It’s a good result for us and hopefully the start of another unbeaten run.”

Praise for ‘exceptional leader’ Robertson

The Nations League provided a path to Euro 2020 for Scotland and, with away games against Republic of Ireland and Armenia to come in the next week, Clarke is keen to move on from the pain of last week’s World Cup play-off semi-final defeat to Ukraine, who are also in Group B1.

“It was important to refresh it,” said the manager of his six changes to the starting line-up. “It was also important for the boys that played last week and went to go again.

“I’ve got to mention the captain [Robertson], I thought he was outstanding. He was outstanding in the dressing room before the game. Himself, John McGinn, and Callum McGregor are leaders to take us onto the pitch for three good performances, but I thought the captain was exceptional.

“Just in general, as a captain, as a leader, it’s a role that Andy’s really grown into. Sometimes he doesn’t quite get the mentions that maybe he should do and captains are important at this time.”

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