Scotland secured a seeded spot in the World Cup play-off semi-finals as goals from John Souttar and Che Adams stunned Denmark with a thrilling performance at Hampden Park.
Steve Clarke’s Group F runners-up needed at least a point against the runaway leaders to give themselves a chance of a home draw.
But centre-half Souttar headed in his first Scotland game since being sent off in a 2018 defeat by Israel, with striker Adams going clear to settle the home side’s nerves after 86 minutes.
Steve Clarke’s side had lived dangerously in the closing stages before that breakaway goal secured a sixth competitive victory in succession for the first time since winning six Home Nations matches in a row between March 1928 and February 1930.
It also ended Denmark’s six-game winning run since losing 2-1 to England at the semi-final stage of the Euro 2020 finals this summer and ensured they fell short of ending their qualification campaign with a 100% record.
It was clear Scotland knew what was at stake as, spurred on by a sea of noise from the packed stands, they started off at a frenetic pace.
However, Denmark survived the early pressure to create the first chance after 10 minutes and remind Scotland of their threat.
Midfielder Daniel Wass could only knock Rasmus Kristensen’s cross wide off his hip from close range before centre-half Andreas Christensen sent a thundering drive just over from 25 yards.
It took Scotland 23 minutes to fashion their first clear sight at goal as Adams’ low drive was denied by a superb Kasper Schmeichel stop, the goalkeeper sending out a telescopic leg to turn the striker’s effort wide.
That reignited the Scots and, after an intense spell of pressure, Liam Cooper headed a John McGinn corner to the back post back into the path of fellow centre-half Souttar to nod past Schmeichel.
What a fairytale return it was for the 25-year-old whose career has been plagued by injury since his first trio of caps three years ago, but he still had some defending to do – and lots of it.
A Wass shot deflected off Cooper’s heel and just wide of the far post before Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon superbly clawed away striker Andreas Cornelius close-range header either side of the break as Denmark took the game to the home side.
Scotland defended desperately and were dangerous on the break, defender Kieran Tierney’s shot come clearance from all of 35 yards clipping the crossbar before substitute Stuart Armstrong picked out Southampton clubmate Adams to curl in the second goal and send the home fans into raptures.
Man of the match – Che Adams
What did we learn?
Scotland continue their improvement since a disappointing start to the qualifying campaign – and the damp squib of the Euro 2020 finals.
It will be pointed out that Denmark were without a number of key players through injury, but Scotland too were shorn of the services of striking talisman Lyndon Dykes and versatile Scott McTominay.
However, this is a side with enough strength in depth to be ranked 10th in the world – 32 places above the Scots – and who had only lost one goal in their previous nine group games.
A draw would probably have meant a more difficult away tie in the semi-finals, so Clarke’s side delivered when it mattered most – and they did so with the bonus of no suspensions looming for the five starters for whom a booking would have been ruled out of that crucial, one-off tie.
Scotland head for a home tie in the World Cup play-off semi-finals from 24-29 March along with nine other group runners-up and two top finishers from the Nations League.
- 6TierneySubstituted forRalstonat 87′minutes
- 14GilmourSubstituted forMcLeanat 74′minutes
- 3RobertsonSubstituted forMcKennaat 79′minutes
- 11ChristieSubstituted forS Armstrongat 80′minutes
- 17S Armstrong
- 1SchmeichelBooked at 21mins
- 13KristensenSubstituted forBahat 81′minutes
- 18WassSubstituted forDreyerat 81′minutes
- 12JønssonSubstituted forStageat 56′minutes
- 11Skov Olsen
- 21CorneliusSubstituted forUhreat 72′minutes
- 10Bruun LarsenSubstituted forSistoat 56′minutes
- 19Riis Jakobsen
- Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
Match ends, Scotland 2, Denmark 0.
Second Half ends, Scotland 2, Denmark 0.
Corner, Denmark. Conceded by Kenny McLean.
Pione Sisto (Denmark) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Kenny McLean (Scotland).
Corner, Denmark. Conceded by Liam Cooper.
Attempt blocked. Joakim Maehle (Denmark) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Anders Dreyer.
Attempt blocked. Stuart Armstrong (Scotland) right footed shot from very close range is blocked. Assisted by Che Adams with a headed pass.
Substitution, Scotland. Anthony Ralston replaces Kieran Tierney.
Goal! Scotland 2, Denmark 0. Che Adams (Scotland) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Stuart Armstrong with a through ball following a fast break.
Attempt saved. Mikael Uhre (Denmark) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Corner, Denmark. Conceded by Craig Gordon.
Attempt saved. Andreas Skov Olsen (Denmark) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Corner, Denmark. Conceded by Kieran Tierney.
Substitution, Denmark. Alexander Bah replaces Rasmus Kristensen.
Substitution, Denmark. Anders Dreyer replaces Daniel Wass.
Substitution, Scotland. Stuart Armstrong replaces Ryan Christie.
Substitution, Scotland. Scott McKenna replaces Andrew Robertson because of an injury.
Attempt blocked. Pione Sisto (Denmark) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jannik Vestergaard.
Substitution, Scotland. Kenny McLean replaces Billy Gilmour because of an injury.