Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar were dented by a dominant Denmark as the Euro 2020 semi-finalists cruised to victory in Copenhagen.
Steve Clarke’s side conceded twice in a minute as they found themselves 2-0 down after quarter of an hour in what was a woeful first half display.
There was an improvement after the break but it was too little, too late for the Scots as they slipped to fourth in the table, seven points behind the group leading Danes.
Following the excitement of seeing Scotland competing at the European Championship finals in the summer the trip to Copenhagen was a return to reality with the focus firmly on the road to Qatar in 2022.
Scotland arrived in Denmark with work to do following an inauspicious start to the campaign.
This was billed as the meeting of the top two teams in Group F but there was no doubt which team was the favourites with hosts Denmark sitting top of the group with a perfect record of three wins out of three.
Scotland were a distant second before a ball was kicked, trailing by four points following one win and two draws from their opening three games.
The need for Clarke’s side to get a result was greater than that of Kasper Hjulmand’s squad but Scotland were swept aside with the minimum of fuss by the huge impressive Danes.
Captain Andy Robertson was deployed at right wing back with Kieran Tierney taking his place on the left and it was down Scotland’s left hand side where the Danes made a dream start.
There were just 14 minutes on the clock when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s diagonal ball picked out the onrushing Daniel Wass and the Valencia utility player brushed the feeble resistance of Tierney aside before beating Craig Gordon with a cushioned header.
A difficult task became a forlorn one less than a minute later as the rampant home side doubled their lead.
The move started on the Scottish left with a neat exchange of quick passes from Denmark cutting through the visitors backline with Mikkel Damsgaard’s terrific defence-splitting pass sending Atalanta full back Joakim Maehle through on goal and he prodded the ball through the legs of the advancing Gordon to leave Scotland reeling.
It was scintillating play from Denmark but amateur defending from Scotland with Billy Gilmour guilty of ball watching rather than staying with Maehle as he made his run into the box.
The lapses in concentration had cost Scotland dear for the two Danish goals and they were fortunate not to be 3-0 down in the 33rd minute as Wass’ free kick found Youssef Poulsen unmarked at the back post but his shot was blocked by Gordon.
It was one-way traffic towards the Scotland goal and Che Adams and Ryan Fraser struggled to get a touch of the ball let alone offer an attacking threat.
Scotland had been outclassed to such an extent the sound of the whistle being blown for half-time by Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan came as a relief.
Clarke had to change his approach as his team had failed to lay a glove on the dominant Danes and it was no surprise to see Lyndon Dykes introduced for Scott McKenna for the second half.
Within three minutes Gilmour fired a shot wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s right post. It was off target but in the grand scheme of what had come previously it was a welcome if miserly show of defiance from the visitors.
Scotland’s second half display was a marked improvement on the first but it was still Denmark who carried the greater goal threat and Gordon made a fine one-handed save to keep out Thomas Delaney’s low drive as the hosts searched for a third.
Schmeichel was called into action for the first time with 15 minutes remaining when he saved a Callum McGregor shot from the edge of the box in what was Scotland’s first attempt on target before the Leicester City goalkeeper made a fine one-handed block to deny Fraser 10 minutes from time.
Gordon was also called into action again in the closing minutes to deny Hojbjerg’s close range header but in the end the Hearts goalkeeper’s efforts did not matter.
The points had already been lost.