Stuart Armstrong lights up Hampden against Solvenia

Gordon Strachan described Stuart Armstrong’s performance as the best Scottish debut he’s ever seen, and it’s hard to disagree with.

There was no sign of the occasion getting to Armstrong as he slotted into the side like he was a senior Scotland international.

It would have helped him that there were five of his Celtic teammates in the starting eleven with Scott Brown, Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths all alongside him.

Charlie Mulgrew and Andy Robertson, two of Armstrong’s ex-teammates, were also starting.

Armstrong role was role for Scotland was slightly different from his one for Celtic as he found himself playing attacking midfield as opposed to his usual deeper role alongside Scott Brown.

He took to the number ten role well as went about his business in such a tidy fashion on the international stage. He started the game well and looked very confident on the ball in the opening 45 minutes.

Scotland were desperate for three points after two back-to-back 3-0 losses to England and Slovakia away from home, which left their World Cup qualification campaign on life support.

Armstrong career started at Inverness CT in the youth ranks but he moved to Dundee United at an early age as his parents moved home. At United, he made his first team debut against Hamilton Accies in 2010.

Becoming a full international was the natural progression for Armstrong as he earned 20 caps for the under 21 side and scored four times.

He must have though that he’d got an assist in the first half, as he won the ball and went on a great run down the right hand side and found Leigh Griffiths in the box but his shot cannoned off the inside of the post and away.

Armstrong was not phased and continued to try to find space for attackers in the second half.

He did find substitute Chris Martin in a congested box, late in the match and the on-loan Fulham man did well to finish to send those inside Hampden crazy.

Martin was booed by the Tartan Army as he replaced James Morrison late on but he responded in the best way possible with a goal. Even if the fans didn’t like Strachan’s decision to turn to Martin, he still should be supported.

Armstrong’s man of the match award was deserved, on a day Scotland needed big performances, he gave such a mature one on his very first start and this bodes very well for the future for Scotland.

The win was a much needed boost to the country’s morale after a bore 1-1 draw with Canada at Easter Road which had about nine thousand people at it.

Sky Sports stats show Armstrong passing was precise, with an impressive 87% accuracy.

International football was always the next step for Armstrong, a player who has been rejuvenated under the guidance of Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers after previously toiling under ex-manager Ronny Deila.

Rodgers has really helped the former Dundee United man take his game to the next level, this is most visible with Armstrong’s 12 goals this season compared to just three last term.

Armstrong has now shown that he’s not just a dead cert for the squad but it would be hard to imagine him not in the starting eleven to face England in June.

The result puts Scotland two points behind second placed Slovakia and in with a sniff of a play-off spot if they can put a run of results together.

A special mention has to go to Armstrong’s Celtic teammate Kieran Tierney, who played the full 90 minutes out-of-position at right back and coped extremely well.

The 19-year-old is constantly linked with Europe’s biggest clubs and on that showing you can see why; every challenge that is put in the teenager’s way is always taken in his stride and done with considerable skill.

But this was Armstrong’s night in the spotlight and, with much of the pre-match chatter about the Highlander, it was great to see him perform.

Armstrong’s league showing have made him a front runner for the Player of the Season award alongside teammates Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair.

If his performances for Celtic keep up and he keeps playing on the international stage like that, then it won’t be long before the midfielder is linked to big teams across Europe for big money.

With Scotland now not in action until the domestic season concludes, Armstrong can turn his attention to securing a historic treble with Celtic before gearing up to face the Auld Enemy in June.

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Liam Morrison

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