Scotland survived an almighty let-off as another VAR-assisted goal by Lyndon Dykes clinched a late victory against Faroe Islands in Torshavn.
The Scots’ fine work in Saturday’s dramatic victory over Israel looked to be coming undone, as the clock ticked towards an embarrassing goalless draw against Hakan Ericson’s men.
It was a thoroughly underwhelming performance by Steve Clarke’s side, however Dykes’ 88th minute goal – which was subject to a lengthy check for a possible handball – keeps them on track to secure a World Cup qualifying play-off place with a victory in their next fixture in Moldova next month.
Scotland’s late heroics against Israel earned them the advantageous situation of needing two further victories against lowly-ranked opposition to cement second place in Group F.
Although the odds were stacked firmly in Scotland’s favour, Clarke’s pre-match message was one of caution against an improving Faroes outfit ranked 114th in the world, despite the Scots’ 4-0 victory when the sides last met at Hampden Park in March.
That will have made the Scotland boss all the more irritated by his side’s poor display, in which they provided minimal attacking guile and even had to survive defensive scares.
The result was all that mattered however, with the Scots keeping themselves on track for the ultimate prize of a place at next year’s finals in Qatar.
There were three changes from the weekend, with Nathan Patterson, Callum McGregor and the injured Che Adams dropping out to make way for Ryan Fraser, Grant Hanley and Ryan Christie.
Scotland’s brief early threat came down the left, with Christie seeing a delivery narrowly evade the head of Saturday’s last-gasp hero Scott McTominay.
A misjudged long ball forward by the hosts nearly brought about an opportunity for the Faroes on five minutes, with former Aberdeen youngster Gilli Rolantsson’s backheel picking out Joan Edmundsson, who was unable to get enough purchase on his strike.
McTominay provided Scotland’s first attempt on target when his strike from an acute angle was comfortably tipped behind Teitur Gestsson.
It was the hosts who were increasingly putting their stamp on the match however, and Scotland had Craig Gordon to thank for sparing them from humiliation on 23 minutes, with the Hearts goalkeeper making an excellent point-blank save to thwart Ari Mohr Jonsson’s header.
The Faroes continued to probe, with Sonni Nattestad nodding marginally over from a Brandur Hendriksson delivery moments later.
The warning signs were there for all to see, with Scotland’s own efforts to find a breakthrough doing little to cause alarm at the other end. McTominay was well off target with a free-kick, while a Christie cutback towards Dykes was cleared by Nattestad.
Another nervy moment came five minutes before the interval when ex-Keith defender Odmar Faero saw a long-range strike ricochet off Hanley, with Gordon relieved to see it drift past the post.
In the loosest sense, McTominay provided the Scots’ main goal threat, and he tried his luck again on the stroke of half-time with a sidefooted effort which he could not keep under the crossbar.
It was up to Clarke and his players to repeat Saturday’s transformed second half performance and although the early signs were more promising, but the visitors’ frustration soon crept in.
Scotland had benefitted from VAR in their previous two matches but there was to be no such fortune on this occasion, as a potential penalty for a foul on Christie was ruled out due to the midfielder being offside.
McTominay’s closest attempt came on 54 minutes when he struck the side-netting after being played in by Christie’s flick, while Billy Gilmour sent a mis-hit effort wide from the edge of the box.
Scotland were quickly reaching desperation stakes, with John McGinn passing up their best chance on 79 minutes when he nodded Fraser’s delivery straight at Gestsson.
Gilmour struck wide moments later, as Scotland’s hopes of a victory appeared to be frittering away.
The visitors had other ideas however, with Patterson’s delivery initially coming off a Faroes defender before ricocheting off Dykes, with a lengthy VAR check for handball finally falling in the Scots’ favour to prompt major relief.
FAROE ISLANDS (3-4-3) – Gestsson 7; Faero 7, Vatnsdal 6 (Askham 59), Nattestad 7; Rolantsson 6, G Vatnhamar 6, Hendriksson 7, Davidsen 6 (Knudsen 59); Hansson 7 (Frederiksen 90), Edmundsson 6, Jonsson 7. Subs not used – Nielsen, Lamhauge, Danielsen, Bjartalio, S Vatnhamar, Olsen, Jensen, Agnarsson.
SCOTLAND (3-4-1-2) – Gordon 7; Hendry 5 (McGregor 68), Hanley 5, Tierney 5; Fraser 5 (Patterson 83), McTominay 5, Gilmour 7 (Cooper 89), Robertson 5; McGinn 5; Christie 5 (Nisbet 83), Dykes 5. Subs not used – Kelly, McLaughlin, O’Donnell, Ferguson, McKenna, Armstrong, Turnbull, McLean.
Referee – Matej Jug (Slovenia)
Man of the match: Billy Gilmour