Snodgrass happy hat-trick

Robert Snodgrass admitted he did not mean to score the first goal of his hat-trick as Scotland won their opening World Cup qualifier against Malta 5-1.

Snodgrass opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a cross that drifted over backtracking Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg and in off the crossbar.

“I just wanted to get it into an area – to the back post – and lucky enough it went in,” Snodgrass said in an interview on Sky Sports 1.

“The boys were giving me some stick. I’m just delighted to get on the scoresheet.”

Scotland’s night was far from straightforward despite the scoreline. Alfred Effiong equalised four minutes after Snodgrass’ opener and the score remained 1-1 at half-time.

Chris Martin fired Scotland back ahead after 53 minutes before an arguably fortuitous penalty award saw Jonathan Caruana sent off and Snodgrass convert from the spot.

Scotland then managed to take charge as Steven Fletcher grabbed a fourth before Snodgrass had a simple task of completing his hat-trick to put the icing on a night that ended with Luke Gambin kicking out at the Hull midfielder in injury-time to leave Malta down to nine men.

“We wanted to get off to a good start in the campaign and we managed to do that,” Snodgrass said.

“They scored the goal and made it a bit difficult for us, but you have to take your chances at this level and we managed to do that tonight and it was a great victory.”

Midfielder Matt Ritchie, who set up Martin’s goal with a fine cross, praised Snodgrass’ display by adding: “H e was fantastic tonight and it’s players like him you need on your team to win games like that. It was a good performance.

“We have to keep our feet on the floor – it’s one game, but it is a positive night and hopefully we can build on it.”

Manager Gordon Strachan praised the mental strength of his players after a vastly-improved second-half performance.

“After being 1-0 up and playing well and losing a goal, that becomes a big moment,” he said.

“At that point we see many teams having to deal with the stress of the headlines tomorrow, the pressure of the fans – you see it all in front of you. Can you deal with it? They dealt with it.

“We were too wide open in the first half. The players worked on that. Their ability and determination and their mental strength more than anything else (impressed me) – you can see at 1-1 the headlines could be truly horrific.”

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