Scotland may have had to suffer the ignominy of being the only home nation not to qualify for Euro 2016, but they made a fast start in their bid to reach the World Cup in two years’ time.
Gordon Strachan’s men thrashed a Malta side that had two men sent off 5-1 to sit top of Group F. However, with England for company we still make the Scots 8/1 outsiders to progress as winners.
Hull City midfielder Robert Snodgrass bagged a hat-trick in Ta’Qali, with recent Fulham signing Chris Martin and Sheffield Wednesday front man Steven Fletcher completing the scoring.
Having promised to make bold selections following a failed attempt to reach the Euros, Strachan handed Hearts full-back Callum Paterson and new Red Bull Leipzig signing Oliver Burke competitive debuts.
The hosts, who equalised Snodgrass’ opener in the 13th minute, were down to 10 men on the hour mark. Jonathan Caruana received his marching orders after tripping Martin in the box.
Snodgrass stepped up to slot home the resulting spot-kick, giving Scotland a 3-1 lead, and from then on the visitors were in complete control.
Elsewhere Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland left the Czech Republic with a point after playing out a goalless draw in Prague.
A shocking Filip Novak miss late on was largely the reason for the stalemate, with the striker volleying wide when left one-on-one with goalkeeper Michael McGovern.
That will be seen as a positive result for the Green and White Army, who were not at their best for much of the match.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.