Scotland only half clear the corner, Dykes’ header dropping to Molumby on the edge of the box. Molumby heads down the inside-left channel. Collins takes a touch, the ball breaking to Egan, who sweeps a shot into the bottom left. Ireland lead!
17 min: McTominay is stripped by Obafemi, and suddenly Ireland are three on two! Obafemi slips Parrott into the Scotland box on the right. Parrott releases a shot, but it’s blocked well by Hendry, who bravely spreads himself at the expense of a corner.
15 min: McGinn catches Knight late. It’s a mistimed leg stuck into a 50-50, nothing more, but it earns Scotland’s captain a talking-to from the referee. Then Doherty catches Tierney on the jaw with his shoulder. No malice there, either, but Tierney felt that nonetheless.
13 min: Scotland settle themselves with some sterile stuff in the middle of the park. A few Hampden hearts will have been in mouths for a second back there; you never know for sure until that flag pops up.
11 min: Parrott is released down the inside-left channel. He’s miles offside, but keeps going, enters the box, drops a shoulder to put Hendry on his backside, and lashes into the top right. That’s a fantastic finish, but the flag predictably, and quite correctly, goes up. Still, that’s got the away fans going.
9 min: England are going down, trill the home fans to the tune of a popular Lightning Seeds hit of yesteryear.
8 min: Hickey rolls a cute ball down the right wing for McTominay, who one-twos crisply with Dykes and strides into the box. Not sure what he decided to do next. A shot? A low cross? Either way, it’s an easy dribbler for Bazunu. A lame end to a lovely sweeping move.
6 min: The first shot in anger is taken by Christie, who advances down the inside-left channel before bobbling a speculative – and frankly poor – effort harmlessly wide right. Bazunu watches it calmly.
5 min: This game is being played at 101 miles per hour. No real shape yet.
4 min: Hickey tries to release Armstrong down the right but overcooks his pass. Goal kick. A better ball may have opened up Ireland.
2 min: Ireland are seeing more of the ball during these very early exchanges. Scotland showing a willingness to press.
Ireland get the ball rolling. Obafemi and Parrott immediately turn on the jets, hoping to catch Scotland cold. McTominay intercepts and puts a stop to their caper. The visitors clearly up for this!
The teams are out! Scotland wear their dark blue, while Ireland change into orange. A fantastic atmosphere in Hampden. We’ll be off once the anthems are passionately sung, given the pantomime bird, etc.
Stephen Kenny’s turn. “The thing about international football is between our last window, when we finished strongly in Ukraine, it’s 96 days. That’s a considerable length of time. We’re excited about the game. We’re ready for it. We set a standard against Scotland and in Poland against Ukraine. We respect Scotland, who had a great win in midweek, but we want a similarly vibrant performance. Technically the players can all take the ball, I encourage that and want that. But the traditional Irish values are very important as well: passion, intensity and ability to work for each other and win the ball back.”
Steve Clarke speaks to Premier Sports. “We want to keep our momentum. We want to play well. We want to win the game. We want to go to Ukraine with the best possible chance to qualify, which means we have to put on a positive performance tonight. I’m only playing with one striker so now I’m in the fortunate position that I can rotate them a bit. I can use them for all the games depending on how I see the situation. We all know what happened in the summer and we want to play better and have a positive result.”
Scotland have four players who are one booking away from suspension. Scott McTominay, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and Ché Adams will all miss the Ukraine game if they’re shown the yellow card this evening.
The Republic of Ireland also have four players teetering on the disciplinary tightrope. Josh Cullen, Callum Robinson, Jeff Hendrick and Alan Browne need to be on their best behaviour, else they’ll miss the visit of Armenia in Dublin next week.
Scotland make two changes to the starting XI named against Ukraine earlier this week. Lyndon Dykes replaces Ché Adams up front, while Aaron Hickey deputises for the injured Nathan Patterson.
The Republic of Ireland make four changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Ukraine back in June. Gavin Bazunu, John Egan, Matt Doherty and Michael Obafemi take the places of Caoimhin Kelleher, Darragh Lenihan, Alan Browne and Scott Hogan.
Scotland: Gordon, Hickey, Hendry, McKenna, Tierney, McTominay, McGregor, Armstrong, McGinn, Christie, Dykes.
Subs: Kelly, McCrorie, Gallagher, Taylor, Porteous, Adams, Gilmour, Ralston, Doig, Fraser, Jack, McLean.
Republic of Ireland: Bazunu, Doherty, Collins, Egan, Cullen, O’Shea, Knight, Molumby, McClean, Obafemi, Parrott.
Subs: Travers, O’Leary, Coleman, Duffy, Robinson, Hourihane, Hendrick, Browne, Hogan, Ogbene, Brady, O’Dowda.
Referee: Sandro Schärer (Switzerland).
Last Wednesday, Scotland did this …
… and all of a sudden, winning Group B1 isn’t so much of a pipe dream. A draw tonight against the Republic of Ireland would pop them back on the top of the group – Ukraine won 5-0 in Armenia earlier this afternoon – and another point against the Ukrainians in neutral Poland on Tuesday would seal the deal. But the Republic have issues of their own, still not yet safe from relegation. A win at Hampden tonight would secure their status in the second tier, rendering the visit of Armenia on Tuesday academic. Given how well Scotland played during the week, and the 3-0 hiding Ireland gave them back in June, anything is possible tonight. Could be a cracker. Kick off is at 7.45pm BST. It’s on!