Nathan Patterson took a good step towards breakthrough with his first Scotland goal
Thanks to a sovereign victory in Moldova, Scotland secured a World Cup play-off spot with one game to go.
Nathan Patterson calmed the nerves with his first goal for Scotland, then caught up with Che Adams to double the lead.
Craig Gordon’s key penalty prevented the hosts from getting a late lifeline.
A fifth win in a row for Steve Clarke’s men opens up a seven-point advantage – Israel is level with Austria after a 4-2 defeat in Klagenfurt – and Denmark has already qualified as Group F winners.
Scotland will end the season against the Danes at Hampden on Monday, when the hosts are likely to need a point to reach the home semi-finals in the play-offs.
Exactly one year to the day since the epic play-off shootout over Serbia sent Scotland to Euro 2020 and ended more than two decades of exile in major tournaments, another significant – and fearful – night awaited Clarke’s men.
But they spared the Tartan Army further torture with an impressive and controlled performance in which, once in front of them, they never looked in danger.
The visitors were left without in sh -e striker Lyndon Dykes, whose goal streak was halted in four games by a suspension, and Adams returned to take the lead.
The Southampton forward scored an offside goal in the first two minutes – and repeated the feat after the break – when Scotland’s abundance of early chances failed to open.
Moldova, with a single point at the bottom of the group, are in 181st place in the world rankings, but had proven to be a difficult obstacle in the 0-1 defeat in Hampden in September.
And it took Gordon’s incredible parade to deny them a shock opener here. A header from Artur Ionita, who had previously flashed an inclined drive inches wide, bounced off the lawn and Gordon showed lightning-fast reflexes to turn the ball over the bar.
The horror slowed Scotland’s momentum after they pounded the hosts’ goal. Stanislav Namasco parried blows from Billy Gilmour and Stuart Armstrong impressively, while c -tain Andy Robertson galloped cleanly but fired straight at the goalkeeper when the far corner was the better option.
However, as half-time -proached, Scotland scored a great goal. Billy Gilmour dug a pass from the right sideline into the box to John McGinn, whose break was perfect for Patterson to hammer into the bottom corner with his weaker left foot.
A moment to enjoy, his first Scottish goal in his sixth international match for the 20-year-old Rangers full-back. However, he will miss the clash with Denmark on Monday after a yellow card in the second half.
Adams was unable to force the ball past Namasco right after the restart when Scotland sought the comfort of a second.
When it got there just after the lesson, it was another brilliant move. McGinn’s heel hit his marker to dismiss Patterson to the right, and his cutback left Adams with an easy finish.
When the pressure was off, Scotland turned up the style. Liam Cooper had booted a header down from Veaceslav Posmac off the line, Adams bundled the rebound from a Callum McGregor shot home before being sidelined and Gilmour pulled wide.
Also when Patterson was punished for handball after a VAR check, Gordon crowned his outstanding performance and prevented a nerve-wracking final by falling to the right to parry Vadim Rata’s spot kick. Thanks also to Kieran Tierney for sn -ping in to keep Rata from catching the loose ball.
Stoke City striker Jacob Brown made his debut from the bench in the closing minutes as Scotland moved up just two wins before making their first World Cup -pearance since 1998.
Man of the Game – Nathan Patterson
A goal and an assist by the full-back (right) ousted his colleague Colossus Craig Gordon
What did we learn?
Scotland was unwavering in a pressurized situation where it would have been easy to be frustrated with the inability to make an early breakthrough.
After starting qualifying with just one in four wins, Clarke’s men have had a remarkable recovery showing their progress and their newfound winning mentality under Clarke.
Since 2007 under Alex McLeish, a Scottish team has not won five games in a row in 90 minutes.
While Patterson and Gordon made the headlines here, there was no dis -pointment among the visitors. Bring the Danes …
What did you say
Scotland head coach Steve Clarke told Sky Sports: “It was a good performance, aggressive forward and trying to create opportunities.
“Lots of shots but only two goals. The penalty could have made it nervous, but when you need it, Craig [Gordon] is always there. The focus is now entirely on Denmark. “
Scotland will round off their qualifiers against Denmark on Monday (19:45 GMT) in Hampden.
Player of the game
- 3BolohanBooked at 58 minutesReplaced byRozgoniucat 62 ‘protocol
- 22ndJustBooked at 77 minutes
- 18thAboveReplaced byBogaciucat 61 ‘protocol
- 7thIonitaBooked at 61 minutes
- 14thMarandiciBooked at 60 minutesReplaced byIosipoiat 71 ‘protocol
- 9NicolaescuReplaced byPuntusat 71 ‘protocolBooked at 72 minutes
- 11GinsariReplaced byCojocaruat 61 ‘protocol
- 22ndPattersonBooked at 54 minutes
- 14thGilmourReplaced byMcLeanat 85 ‘protocol
- 7thMcGinnReplaced byTurnbullat 90 ‘protocol
- 10AdamsReplaced byBrownat 85 ‘protocol
- 17thS ArmstrongReplaced byNisbetat 76 ‘protocol
Game ends, Moldova 0, Scotland 2.
Second half ends, Moldova 0, Scotland 2.
Attempt failed. Veaceslav Posmac (Moldova) right footed shot from more than 30 yards is close, but misses to the left. Supported by Ioan Calin Revenco.
Foul by Jacob Brown (Scotland).
Artur Ionita (Moldova) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt saved. Marius Iosipoi (Moldova) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the lower left corner. Supported by Ioan Calin Revenco.
Foul by Nathan Patterson (Scotland).
Marius Iosipoi (Moldova) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Replacement, Scotland. David Turnbull replaces John McGinn.
Kenny McLean (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ioan Calin Revenco (Moldova).
Replacement, Scotland. Jacob Brown replaces Che Adams.
Replacement, Scotland. Kenny McLean replaces Billy Gilmour.
Offside, Scotland. Billy Gilmour tries a through ball, but Che Adams is caught offside.
Attempt saved. John McGinn (Scotland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the lower left corner. Supported by Andrew Robertson.
Liam Cooper (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Artiom Rozgoniuc (Moldova).
Corner, Moldova. Granted by Kieran Tierney.
Penalty saved! Vadim Rata (Moldova) can’t take this great chance, the right footed shot is saved in the lower left corner.
VAR decision: Penalty for Moldova.