TA’ QALI, Malta: Robert Snodgrass bagged a hat-trick as Scotland started World Cup 2018 qualifying in perfect fashion with a 5-1 win in Malta.
Substitute Steven Fletcher and Chris Martin also got their names on the scoresheet as Alfred Effiong netted nine-man Malta’s consolation.
It put Gordon Strachan’s team top of Group F ahead of England, who won 1-0 in Slovakia thanks to an Adam Lallana winner deep into stoppage time.
Although only one match has been played, it is a welcome boost for Scotland, who were the only one of the Home Nations to miss out on Euro 2016.
Snodgrass scored his first on 10 minutes with a miscued cross before Effiong equalised just three minutes later from a header.
It was a frustrating first period for the Scots against stubborn opponents, but the second half was a different matter.
Martin converted a low cross from Matt Ritchie on 53 minutes, after which the floodgates opened.
Snodgrass got his second just past the hour mark from the penalty spot after he was tripped in the box by Jonathan Caruanu, who was subsequently dismissed.
Striker Fletcher came off the bench to convert a deflected Ritchie cross before winger Snodgrass completed the scoring after Fletcher was denied by the bar.
Malta finished with nine men as Luke Gambin was sent off late on for lashing out at Snodgrass.