Scotland kicked off their qualification bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia with a 2-0 win over Hungary as the new era under Pedro Martinez Losa got underway at the Hidegkuti Nandor Stadium in Budapest tonight.
Chelsea striker Erin Cuthbert’s first-half strike had Scotland ahead at the break but Martinez Losa will be looking for better from his side as they huffed and puffed their way through the opening 45 before substitute Martha Thomas sealed the win with a second-half header.
Your Scotland team taking on Hungary in our opening @FIFAWWC qualifier this evening.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) September 17, 2021
After the enforced absences of Kirsty Smith, Lucy Graham, Caroline Weir and Lisa Evans, having initially being named in the squad, Martinez Loza drafted Rachael Boyle, Lizzie Arnot, Lauren Davidson and Jenna Clark into the squad for the double-header with the Hungarians and the Faroe Islands.
Scotland were comfortable winners the last time the two sides met, picking up a 3-0 friendly win in 2017 thanks to goals from Lana Clelland, Claire Emslie and Jane Ross.
It didn’t take long for Scotland to get themselves in front though, Cuthbert’s rebounded finish from a saved penalty breaking the deadlock 17 minutes in after the Chelsea star was fouled to win the spot-kick.
There was plenty of possession for Martinez Losa’s side, ending the half with 75%, but the Hungarian keeper had surprisingly little to do as Scotland struggled to really take advantage of their control of the game.
Scotland keeper Lee Alexander was called into action a couple of times in the opening 45, doing well to stop the Hungarian’s drawing level, while Jane Ross went close a couple of times as the visitors looked to double their advantage before the interval – although they looked to be missing a real cutting edge in the final third.
Despite being ahead and largely dominating the game, Scotland weren’t having it all their own way and the hosts showed they posed a threat in front of goal – with Scotland legend Julie Fleeting admitting during the break she was worried history could ‘repeat itself’.
Scotland started the second 45 brightly, Kirsty Hanson seeing her effort tipped wide at the cost of a corner but the set-piece would ultimately come to nothing as the Hungarians hung on looking to hit on the counter and snatch something from the game.
It was very close to being 2-0 just after the hour mark when a Scotland corner cannoned off the back off the head of a Hungarian defender and crashed off the bar before being cleared, with Scotland edging ever closer to a second goal.
Scotland’s improved performance after the break finally got its rewards when Manchester United’s Martha Thomas grabbed her fifth goal in nine appearances for her country with a little under 20 minutes remaining.
As the minutes ticked away, there was an international debut for teenager Lauren Davidson, with the Glasgow City youngster almost scoring a dream goal just moments after coming off the bench.
With Spain and Ukraine also in Scotland’s group, securing their place at the finals in Australia will be a challenge – but certainly not something that should be out of reach for the Tartan Army.
Tuesday’s Hampden clash with the Faroes should be a comfortable three points for Scotland and sets up the next game – Hungary at home – to be a massive one in the bid to qualify for the World Cup.
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