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Steven Fletcher bags hat-trick in Scotland romp

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Fletcher grabbed an historic Scotland hat-trick
Fletcher grabbed an historic Scotland hat-trick

SCOTLAND: 6 GIBRALTAR: 1

Steven Fletcher netted Scotland's first hat-trick for 46 years as Gordon Strachan's men bounced back from the shock of conceding Gibraltar's first competitive goal to record a 6-1 European Championship qualifying win at Hampden Park.

Fletcher quadrupled his international goals tally to become the first Scotland player to net a treble since Colin Stein hit four against Cyprus in 1969.

Scotland boss Gordon Strachan sprung a surprise by naming just one centre-back in his team but his three-man defence was badly exposed when Lee Casciaro raced through to strike a 19th-minute equaliser.

The goal was not the only uncomfortable moment for Scotland in the first half but, by the time the interval arrived, they had already matched Germany's four-goal haul against UEFA's newest members.

That was partly down to Gibraltar gifting Scotland two penalties, which Shaun Maloney (below) converted, and Fletcher and Steven Naismith also calmed the nerves.

It was the first time a Scotland player had bagged a treble since Colin Stein hit four against Cyprus in 1969 and Fletcher said: "I'm happy we got the three points but obviously the three goals means a lot because it's been a while since I've scored so I'm delighted.

"Any goal for my country makes me proud but obviously getting a hat-trick is a fantastic achievement and I'll cherish it."

It was Scotland's second win in a week, having seen of Northern Ireland in a friendly on Wednesday as they bounced back from November's defeat to England.

It gives Gordon Strachan's men plenty of encouragement heading into a crunch showdown with Republic of Ireland in their next fixture in June.

"We've got a lot of confidence, great group of lads, hopefully we can take it into the summer," Fletcher added on Sky Sports 1.

Sunday's victory leaves Scotland well placed on 10 points after five games and boss Strachan added: "I'm upbeat because after five games in a real hard group, to be where we are is not bad."

While it was ultimately a successful day for the Scots, they had the ignominy of being the first side to concede a goal to Gibraltar, competing in a major qualifying event for the first time.

Strachan added: "I would say that Gibraltar take all the credit. I thought they were terrific, their attitude was great, they played the game the right way and they scored the first goal. Unfortunately it was against us, unfortunately it was against David Marshall.

"The other two goalkeepers think I'm a fantastic manager for not picking them - they're delighted!

"It's been a not bad day, but it was a long game for us. It was hard work for some of the players. I'm just glad to get it out of the way."

Meanwhile, Germany picked up an unimpressive 2-0 win over Georgia, as goals from Marco Reus and Thomas Muller within five minutes just before half-time were enough for Joachim Low's men to pick up the three points in Tbilisi in another Group D encounter.