Russia took another big stride towards UEFA Euro 2020 qualification as they comfortably saw off Scotland at Luzhniki thanks to a double from skipper Artem Dzyuba and goals from Magomed Ozdoev and Aleksandr Golovin.
After being frustrated in a goalless first half, Russia wrapped the game up in the space of three second-half minutes as Dzyuba volleyed home from a corner on 57 minutes before Ozdoev added a second from range shortly after.
Dzyuba then poked in a third before Monaco playmaker Golovin struck with five minutes to play to ensure a rampant Russia delighted the crowd on their return to Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium for the first time since their epic World Cup shootout win over Spain last summer.
The win for Stanislav Cherchesov’s team all-but guarantees their spot in next year’s UEFA European showpiece, putting them eight points clear of third-placed Cyprus in Group I with three games to play.
Steve Clarke’s Scotland team headed into the game already knowing that their best chance of qualification lies through the play-offs – a place in which they secured thanks to their UEFA Nations League performances – but they suffered a demoralizing fifth defeat in seven qualifiers on a chastening night in Moscow.
While Scotland proved resilient in the first half, Russia’s class shone through in the second thanks to goals of the highest quality from Zenit St. Petersburg pair Dzyuba and Ozdoev.
First, big Russian skipper Dzyuba freed himself from the attentions of Charlie Mulgrew to volley in a corner from the left, before Ozdoev fired an unstoppable 25-yard drive past David Marshall in the Scotland goal.
Dzyuba then added a third, poking home from close range, before Golovin fired home from a tight angle.
It was an ugly experience for Scotland and the ever-hardy band of Tartan Army supporters who had made the trip to a damp and frigid Moscow.
Next up for Russia is a trip to sunny Cyprus on Sunday, where they can definitively book their spot in next summer’s pan-European tournament.
Scotland, meanwhile, will hope for a confidence-boosting victory as they host group whipping boys San Marino.