If this was the warm-up party, Scotland will have a rollercoaster to look forward to as they prepare for this summer’s European Championships in Germany.
It wasn’t all easy on the eye with cheap goals revealing a defensive softness – not entirely unexpected given the injury list – but there was little doubting the revelling of the Tartan Army who offered their own portent of what is to come; ‘Scotland’s having a party, Haaland’s in bed’ they chanted at one stage of this second period in a game after Scotland had twice come from behind before taking the lead. Stuart Armstrong’s goal to make it 3-2 was the pick of the bunch.
A late Norway leveller from Mohamed Elyounoussi couldn’t dampen Scotland’s spirits although it did highlight that softness at the back, something that will keep Steve Clarke awake in the wee small hours across the coming months.
The draw effectively confirms that Scotland will be in Pot 3 for the draw which takes place on 2nd December.
There were four goals scored inside the opening 32 minutes as Norway and Scotland went at it but for all the excitement around Germany, there will be some consternation at the cheapness of Norway’s goals and the ease with which Scotland were undone defensively.
It was not a night, however, to focus on one individual performance but rather to celebrate the campaign as a whole.
There was no Haaland or Martin Odegaard for Norway while Scotland’s injury count is well known.
Without Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Aaron Hickey, Steve Clarke deviated from his favoured back five to a flat back four – and Scotland looked ill at ease defensively.
Not since the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in the World Cup 2022 play-offs have Scotland conceded twice in a competitive game.
It was a frantic opening to the game with the tone set through Aron Donnum’s third minute opener when he cracked the ball off the post and into the net.
For a Scotland side who had enjoying the pre-match revelling as they took their place under the lights for the final time in this successful campaign, it seemed to serve as a reminder that there was still a game to play regardless of the pressure being off.
McGinn netted his 18th Scotland goal – the highest tally for a Scotland midfielder – via the spot after Calum McGregor’s volley on the edge of the box had been blocked by an arm. VAR confirmed the call with McGinn finding the net but Scotland’s lead was short-lived.
Scotland were architects of their own downfall after a messy defensive malaise gave Norway the chance to reassert their dominance. The hosts had forced their way down the left-hand side with a deflected cross enabling to poke it in at the front post. Zander Clark tried desperately to keep it while Nathan Patterson also tried to slide in on the line but the ball had crossed into the net by that stage.
Still, Scotland came again. There was a degree of fortitude about the goal with Scott McTominay’s corner coming off the thigh of Napoli defender Leo Ostigard as parity was restored.
Nathan Patterson had to block an effort from Donnum on the line while Stuart Armstrong dragged an effort wide of the target on the cusp of the break as both teams remained committed to attack.
Armstrong put Scotland ahead for the first time in the game with the pick of the goals. His tenacity on the touchline took him into the box where he exchanged a one-two with McGinn before reversing the ball into the bottom corner.
Elyounoussi, well known to many of those inside Hampden after his loan spell at Celtic, headed Norway back onto level terms.