Sheffield Wednesday striker Steven Fletcher on target in Scotland win over Malta
Robert Snodgrass hit a hat-trick and surprise starter Chris Martin were also on target as Scotland gave the Tratan Army fans a much-needed boost after missing out on the European Championship finals, although Malta had a second man sent off in injury-time.
Malta had quickly cancelled out a fortuitous early opener from Snodgrass when Alfred Effiong headed home but Scotland scored four times after the break, including one for Fletcher who had come off the bench.
Fletcher’s Owls team mate Barry Bannan started the game and put in an impressive showing in the middle of the park.
Northern Ireland took a point from their opening qualifier as Filip Novak’s stunning miss let Michael O’Neill’s side snatch a 0-0 draw with the Czech Republic.
Two years on from a victory in Hungary which kickstarted their run to Euro 2016, the feel-good buzz evaporated somewhat with a stalemate against the equally underwhelming Czechs.
Boss O’Neill may be satisfied with a share of the spoils, a return they only got due to Novak’s mystifying second-half close-range blunder, but the manner of performance suggested there is plenty to do if they are to reach Russia in 2018.