Scottish Daily Mail


Gilmour’s first goal only sparks brilliant Mbappe & Co into life


WHEN Billy Gilmour scored his firstever senior goal against the World Cup finalists, Scotland should have trudged off the rugbyravag­ed pitch of Lille’s Stade Pierre Mauroy and waved au revoir. The night was only heading one way.

A brilliant curling finish from the Brighton midfielder came after 11 minutes, capitalisi­ng on a horrendous defensive error from Eduardo Camavinga. It only served to wake up a host nation brimming with sublime players.

A full-strength Scotland team would have struggled to live with the brilliance of Kylian Mbappe and Co. An understren­gth starting XI with eight changes to the side beaten in Spain conceded two soft headers to central defender Benjamin Pavard before the peerless Mbappe swept a penalty high into the net after VAR clocked a tug on Olivier Giroud by Liam Cooper.

Substitute Kingsley Coman showed outstandin­g technique to smash the fourth French goal into the net as the makeshift Scots were outclassed.

Beaten by England and Spain, a game against France on their own turf always felt like a risky venture for Steve Clarke’s men. Keen to expose his players to the kind of clinical brilliance they will face in Germany next summer, this was a sobering reminder that reaching the finals is one thing. Competing against the world’s best is quite another.

Outside the stadium, the authoritie­s erected a ring of steel. Responding to the brutal murder of two Swedish nationals in Belgium, the number of police and security personnel for this match was doubled to a thousand — and kick-off delayed for 10 minutes to run checks on supporters.

After one glance at Didier Deschamps’ team sheet, Clarke must have been tempted to wonder if this was, in fact, a friendly. The France coach had clearly failed to read the memo.

Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly’s last game was against Livingston in the Tony Macaroni. Here, the debutant was pitched in for a baptism of fire against three of the four top goalscorer­s in the history of the French national team. He picked the ball out of the net three times before half-time.

A double against the Netherland­s last Friday made it 42 goals in 72 appearance­s for Mbappe, surpassing the total of Michel Platini. By the time the world’s best player scored No 43 from a spot-kick late in the first half, Scotland’s glorious start was already a distant memory.

Kudos to Gilmour for the most memorable goal on French soil by a Scot since James McFadden in 2007. The game was barely getting going, France oddly pedestrian, when Camavinga’s horrendous moment of slackness in his own area gifted the former Rangers youth with a chance for his first internatio­nal goal.

Sweeping the ball calmly into the far corner past Mike Maignan, you’d have thought he was an old hand at the goalscorin­g game.

In hindsight, it was always a little too good to be true. The lead lasted just five minutes, the imperious Antoine Griezmann — starting his 82nd consecutiv­e game for France — curling in a corner which was met by the head of Pavard.

The defender ran off Nathan Patterson a little too easily to guide his effort into the net off the inside of the far post for 1-1.

Until last night, the Inter Milan star had only scored three times in 51 games. By the halfway point of the first half, he was on a hat-trick after magnificen­t play on the left by the sublime Mbappe.

The touch, the turn, the pace left Jack Hendry chasing his shadow. The cross was equally sublime, Pavard ghosting in to double his tally. This, now, was the night Scotland fans feared when they peered at the team sheet through the cracks of their fingers.

A pummelling now seemed a matter of when and not if.

VAR has been a curse for Clarke’s team in this internatio­nal window. Where the SFA felt the need to register their disgust over Scott McTominay’s disallowed goal in Seville, there will be no letter to UEFA over this one.

With four minutes to go until the interval, German referee Tobias Stieler was advised to review the monitor for a tug on Giroud’s jersey by Cooper. Replays showed the Leeds United man was almost as pulled as he was pulling.

As soon as the referee made the jog to the touchline, though, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Had he saved a spot-kick from Mbappe, Kelly would have had a debut to remember.

While the keeper guessed right, the power of the strike defeated him. Before the interval, France were cruising and out of sight.

Kelly’s debut ended after 45 minutes, Zander Clark of Hearts given the task of keeping the score down in the first meeting of these nations since a friendly in Metz in 2016. Back then, the Scots were playing the role of warm-up act after failing to qualify for the Euros. This time, they had some warming-up of their own to do. The introducti­ons of John Souttar and Jacob Brown after an hour oiled the revolving door. Deschamps made a couple of changes of his own to breathe some life into a home crowd — and team — who seemed to be losing interest. The departures of Giroud and Ousmane Dembele didn’t weaken them much, Coman and Marcus Thuram given a run-out for the last half-hour. The impact of the French substitute­s was instant and explosive. The home side seemed to flick a switch when they felt like it and spring to life.

Bayern Munich man Coman ended a lull in the game as he smashed the fourth French goal into the roof of the net after Griezmann had struck the bar from Thuram’s brilliant cross.

Brown’s spin and strike from the edge of the area was the first of two big saves from France keeper Maignan which denied the Scots a little consolatio­n, Stuart Armstrong driving against the AC Milan keeper’s legs after creeping in at the back post.

It’s rare for three Scotland defeats in a row to be met with a shrug of indifferen­ce. On this occasion, it can be excused.

Last Sunday’s qualificat­ion for a second successive Euros was the only outcome which mattered at all.

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 ?? ?? Dream start: Gilmour (centre) celebrates his early strike
Dream start: Gilmour (centre) celebrates his early strike
 ?? ?? Just two good: Pavard scores his second of the night to put the French 2-1 ahead after Scotland had taken an early lead
Just two good: Pavard scores his second of the night to put the French 2-1 ahead after Scotland had taken an early lead

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