Robert Snodgrass fires hat-trick as Scotland off to a flyer

Robert Snodgrass admitted he did not mean to score the first goal of his hat-trick as Scotland won their opening World Cup qualifier against Malta 5-1 last night.

Snodgrass opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a cross that drifted over backtracking Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg and in off the crossbar.

“I just wanted to get it into an area — to the back post — and lucky enough it went in,” Snodgrass said in an interview on Sky Sports 1.

“The boys were giving me some stick. I’m just delighted to get on the scoresheet.”

Scotland’s night was far from straightforward despite the scoreline. Alfred Effiong equalised four minutes after Snodgrass’ opener and the score was 1-1 at half-time.

Chris Martin fired Scotland back ahead after 53 minutes before a questionable penalty award saw Jonathan Caruana sent off and Snodgrass convert from the spot.

Scotland then managed to take charge as Steven Fletcher grabbed a fourth before Snodgrass had a simple task of completing his hat-trick to put the icing on a night that ended with Luke Gambin kicking out at the Hull midfielder in injury-time to leave Malta down to nine men.

Lithuania and Slovakia drew 2-2 in the other Group F game.

Euro 2016 quarter-finalists Poland began their World Cup qualifying campaign by squandering a 2-0 lead in a bad-tempered 2-2 draw away to Kazakhstan which saw 10 players booked.

Poland appeared to be cruising when Bartosz Kapustka put them ahead after nine minutes and Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty 10 minutes before the break in the Group E match, his sixth successive goal in a qualifier.

But Kazakhstan, who lost seven of their 10 games in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and have never played at the World Cup, pulled one back in the 51st minute when Sergey Khizhnichenko chested down a cross and stroked the ball past Lukasz Fabianski.

Khizhnichenko struck again seven minutes later when he put away Maksat Baizhanov’s low cross. The game then turned niggly and Poland were denied victory when Lewandowski struck the post late on — the third time the visitors had hit the woodwork.

Elsewhere in Group E, Denmark beat Armenia 1-0 while Romania and Montenegro drew 1-1.

In Northern Ireland’s Group C, Germany made a successful start to the defence of their World Cup title with a 3-0 win over Norway in Oslo.

Thomas Muller scored two while Joshua Kimmich’s first goal for his country crowned an emphatic start to qualifying for Germany.

Manuel Neuer led Germany out for the first time since being named their new captain following Bastian Schweinsteiger’s retirement from international football.

The Bayern Munich goalkeeper’s touch of the ball during the coin toss was the closest he would come to seeing action for much of the game.

After 15 minutes Muller scored with a second bite of the cherry after his first shot was blocked.

On the stroke of half-time. Muller turned provider for Kimmich’s first goal for his country, his shot evading the lunges of two Norway players and nestling into the far corner of Rune Jarstein’s goal.

Muller added a third on the hour mark, heading in Sami Khedira’s cross for his 34th goal for his country and allowing Germany to take it easy for the final half hour.

Azerbaijan won 1-0 at San Marino in the other Group C game.


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