Scotland were handed a harsh footballing lesson by Belgium, as the World Cup semi-finalists eased to a 4-0 friendly victory at Hampden Park on Friday.
Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring after a defensive mix-up, before Eden Hazard doubled the lead shortly after half-time.
Substitute Michy Batshuayi then profited twice from Scotland mistakes, as Alex McLeish’s side suffered their worst home defeat since 1973 in front of a half-full Hampden Park.
It was not the result or performance required to raise Scottish spirits before Monday’s first Nations League tie against Albania, but Belgium showed why they came so close to glory in Russia during the summer, with Hazard in particular a sparkling presence during less than an hour on the pitch.
Scotland hadn’t beaten Belgium since 1987, but created an early opening when Kevin McDonald’s pass was flicked by Griffiths into the path of Callum McGregor, who shot wide – though the flag went up for offside against Griffiths, it was a promising sign of the creativity craved by McLeish.
Scotland were keen to play out from the back, but struggled to get a foothold, as Belgium settled into a passing rhythm.
When there was respite, John McGinn strode forward and tested Thibaut Courtois from distance. The shot was powerful and straight at the Real Madrid goalkeeper, yet he let the ball slip from his grasp and behind him towards goal, before gathering to save embarrassment.
Instead it was McGinn left red-faced on 28 minutes as Belgium took the lead, but he wasn’t helped by his goalkeeper. Craig Gordon rolled the ball out to the Aston Villa midfielder, who was pickpocketed 25 yards from goal by Mousa Dembele. His pass found Thorgan Hazard, and with the Scotland defence all at sea and Gordon in no-man’s land, Hazard crossed for Lukaku who smashed into an empty net.
Undeterred, McGinn had another effort comfortably saved by Courtois, but Vincent Kompany clipped the crossbar with a header at the other end.
Timothy Castagne was causing havoc on Scotland’s left hand side, and Lukaku was inches away from converting his cross on 41 minutes. Seconds later another wicked Castagne delivery found Eden Hazard’s head, but Gordon made a fine stop at the near post and then denied Lukaku as he looked to finish the rebound
Lukaku, Kompany, Dries Mertens and Castagne all failed to reappear for the second half, as Martinez made four changes. Steven Naismith also came on for Leigh Griffiths, but Belgium quickly went 2-0 up inside a minute through Eden Hazard. His drilled shot from an angle was powered through Gordon, who was falling backwards but perhaps could have done better.
Six minutes later it was 3-0. Mulgrew’s under-hit clearance was easily intercepted by Dembele, who fed Eden Hazard in space. Rather than shoot, the captain calmly laid it off for substitute Batshuayi, who passed it under Gordon.
Scotland committed another unforced error just before the hour. Substitute Ryan Jack, on for Stuart Armstrong, was dispossessed by Youri Tielemans, and suddenly Batshuayi was advancing on goal, before lashing a shot home past the helpless Gordon from the edge of the box. It was the cue for some Scotland supporters to head for the exits.
A rare Scottish foray forward saw McGregor pick out Naismith unmarked on the six-yard line, but the cross was slightly behind the Hearts striker, and his left-footed shot was parried by Courtois.
Batshuayi could have had a hat-trick as he got the wrong side of John Souttar, but hit the side-netting, as Belgium threatened to run riot. But Courtois was still alert in the Belgium goal, as he acrobatically tipped Ryan Fraser’s curling effort behind, before blocking substitute Jonny Russell’s shot with his legs.
Vertonghen nearly made it 5-0 with a long-range effort that whistled just wide, but there was no more scoring, to the relief of Scotland and McLeish, for whom a chastening night had thrown up more questions than answers.