Match ends, Malta 1, Scotland 5.
World Cup qualifier: Malta 1-5 Scotland
Robert Snodgrass scored a hat-trick as Scotland started their World Cup qualifying campaign by hammering Malta.
The Hull midfielder's cross-come-shot looped in to give the Scots the lead, but Alfred Effiong headed a reply.
Chris Martin's side-footed finish restored the lead and Snodgrass added a penalty as Jonathan Caruana was controversially sent off.
Snodgrass tapped-in his third after Steven Fletcher's header, with Malta's Luke Gambin also sent off late on.
It was an up-and-down display for the Scots as they opened impressively, laboured after Effiong's equaliser then capitalised on Malta being reduced to 10 men.
The turning point was the penalty, when there looked to be little if any contact as Caruana chased Martin into the six-yard box while the Scotland striker was stretching to reach an Andrew Robertson cross.
Scotland took control as Malta lost their discipline in the closing stages and Gordon Strachan's side go top of Group F ahead of England, who won 1-0 in Slovakia, on goal difference after the opening set of fixtures.
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Though the scoreline was ultimately emphatic, Scotland had to be patient before their superiority began to tell.
They began the match strongly, but the swift equaliser unsettled the Scots and the remainder of the first half was unimpressive.
Confidence was restored once Martin went some way to justifying his starting place by scoring the crucial second goal.
Thereafter, the result was never in doubt, particularly after the Maltese were reduced to 10 men with the seemingly harsh dismissal of Caruana.
Strachan's selections justified?
Martin's inclusion as the main striker surprised most observers and his first-half showing did little to justify his manager's faith.
But he made the vital intervention that kick-started the Scotland performance, as well as winning the penalty for the third.
Barry Bannan looked tidy alongside Darren Fletcher in the middle of the park, while Callum Paterson provided his trademark energetic running on the right flank, dangerous crosses and an additional aerial threat at set-pieces.
Despite the big win, this was not a wholly convincing display by Scotland. Nevertheless, the victory is a vital one and, for a short time at least, takes them to the top of the group.
Burke's big day
Oliver Burke had been in the headlines all week following his £13m transfer to RB Leipzig and was handed his first start and competitive debut for the national team.
He began the match almost as a support striker, just behind Martin, and the early signs were promising as he burst into the penalty area to win a corner.
But, although he showed great willingness to make things happen, he couldn't impose himself on the game, even when he was shifted to a more familiar right-wing beat in the second half.
He was eventually replaced with James Forrest, but there will surely be plenty more opportunities for the 19-year-old to make an impact at international level.
Man of the match - Robert Snodgrass
Scotland's next match is a home meeting with Lithuania on 8 October, followed by a trip to Slovakia three days later.
|Scotland's 2018 World Cup qualification fixtures|
|4 September: (a) v Malta||26 March: (h) v Slovenia|
|8 October: (h) v Lithuania||10 June: (h) v England|
|11 October: (a) v Slovakia||1 September: (a) v Lithuania|
|11 November: (a) v England||4 September: (h) v Malta|
|5 October: (h) v Slovakia|
|8 October: (a) v Slovenia|
- 2CaruanaBooked at 60mins
- 16SciclunaSubstituted forCamilleriat 79'minutes
- 8FenechBooked at 56mins
- 11GambinBooked at 90mins
- 13SchembriSubstituted forBriffaat 66'minutes
- 19EffiongBooked at 61minsSubstituted forMifsudat 89'minutes
- 6Gatt Baldacchino
- 8BurkeSubstituted forForrestat 66'minutes
- 11RitchieSubstituted forAnyaat 86'minutes
- 9MartinSubstituted forFletcherat 68'minutes
- Yevgen Aranovsky
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Malta 1, Scotland 5.
Attempt missed. James Forrest (Scotland) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.
Attempt blocked. Robert Snodgrass (Scotland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ikechi Anya.
Corner, Scotland. Conceded by Steve Borg.
Luke Gambin (Malta) is shown the red card for violent conduct.
Robert Snodgrass (Scotland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Luke Gambin (Malta).
Substitution, Malta. Michael Mifsud replaces Alfred Effiong.
Attempt missed. Barry Bannan (Scotland) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.
Substitution, Scotland. Ikechi Anya replaces Matt Ritchie.
Goal! Malta 1, Scotland 5. Robert Snodgrass (Scotland) left footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner.
Steven Fletcher (Scotland) hits the bar with a left footed shot from the left side of the box. Assisted by Matt Ritchie.
Foul by Russell Martin (Scotland).
Alfred Effiong (Malta) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. Robert Snodgrass (Scotland) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Andrew Robertson.
Russell Martin (Scotland) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Alfred Effiong (Malta).
Grant Hanley (Scotland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Alfred Effiong (Malta).