Even six quid a pint did not prevent the Tartan Army from toasting this win long into the Icelandic night, after Kirk Broadfoot, making his international debut, kick-started not only the win but Scotland's Group Nine campaign.
Entertainment was never in short supply here in Reykjavik as George Burley finally got his first win as Scotland's manager although some of it near the end was best watched through the fingers. Scotland's second goal came only after a saved penalty, then Iceland got back into contention from the spot after the Scottish captain, Stephen McManus, was sent off, on his 26th birthday, for handball.
That will have consequences for another day: McManus will miss Scotland's next match, at home to Norway next month. But the TA will not be dwelling on it too much today, with Scotland back on track towards a South African dream and joint top of their section table.
"We knew we need to pick up some points here," said Burley, lambasted after Scotland lost 1-0 in Macedonia on Saturday. "Three points from two away games keeps us in contention."
By describing Broadfoot as of "limited ability" last week, Burley intended to praise the Rangers right-back for his self-improvement. Giving him his debut in such a crucial match was hard evidence of what he meant. The 24-year-old paid him straight back in the 18th minute. His was not a classic conversion – a near-post tap-in from Barry Robson's corner – but as only the third goal of Burley's reign and as the strike that pumped belief back into Tartan hearts, it was special. Some plodding defender, eh? He has an international strike rate of a goal per game.
"He's a smashing player and he's worked hard to make himself a good player," Burley said. Burley declined any crowing at his critics, saying that the win was "the best" feeling, because "this is points for my country and for a whole nation of fans".
Burley insists he will stand or fall by attacking football and 4-3-3 line-up was a bold statement. It reshaped to 4-1-4-1 under pressure but the front men were given a remit to push up.
Kris Commons, the 25-year-old Derby winger, made his first international start on the right, with Celtic's Shaun Maloney on the left. James McFadden, who a year ago this midweek stunned France with a sensational long-range winner in Paris, was the spearhead. Burley reduced the average age of his side by more than a year at one stroke by playing Broadfoot instead of Burnley's Graham Alexander, 36.
Iceland went close several times early on. Aron Gunnarsson, 19, a summer signing for Coventry, saw his drive from the right pushed away by a flying Craig Gordon. Gunnarsson crossed for Bolton's Heidur Helguson, whose header flashed wide. Then Helguson was shaping to shoot when Gary Caldwell blocked with superb timing from the side. The ball broke right to Eidur Gudjohnsen, whose rising screamer flew over.
McFadden roamed, waiting for service that came mainly from his wingmen. He looked like timing a run to perfection to meet Maloney's cross on the line late in the first half but Kristjan Orn Sigurdsson nicked it from his toes. Iceland had their own near miss just afterwards when Hermann Hreidarsson's shot was cleared from the line by McManus.
Scotland went further ahead just before the hour when Fletcher took a quick free-kick towards McFadden, who was waiting in the area and was brought down by Sigurdsson. As the Belgian referee pointed to the spot, McFadden grabbed the ball covetously, then saw his penalty saved by Kjartan Sturluson. Four Scots charged to the rebound, McFadden and Robson arriving together. Robson was credited with the goal, although it was not easy to tell whether he or McFadden got the final touch.
Scotland, emboldened, pushed forward with enthusiasm. But Iceland countered, and as Emil Hallfredsson's diagonal ball soared towards Helguson at the far post, McManus pushed it wide with his hand. McManus got a deserved red card, and Gudjohnsen rammed in from 12 yards. Helguson came close to snatching a draw in the last minute but his rasping effort hit the back of Caldwell's head and spun clear.
Goals: Broadfoot (18) 0-1, Robson (59) 0-2, Gudjohnsen (77) 1-2 .
Iceland (4-2-3-1): Sturluson (Valur); Steinsson (Bolton), Sigurdsson (Brann), Hreidarsson (Portsmouth), Eiriksson (Valur); Gunnarsson (Coventry) (Palmason (Valur) 63), Gislason (Brondby); Saevarsson (Brann), Gudjohnsen (Barcelona), Hallfredsson (Reggina); Helguson (Bolton). Substitutes used: Palmason (Stabaek) for Gunnaarsson, 64;. V Gunnarsson (Stabaek) for Saevarsson, 78.
Scotland (4-3-3): Gordon (Sunderland); Broadfoot (Rangers), McManus, Caldwell (both Celtic), Naysmith (Sheff Utd); Brown (Celtic), D Fletcher (Man Utd), Robson (Celtic); Commons (Derby), McFadden (Birmingham), Maloney (Celtic). Substitutes used: Miller (Rangers) for Commons 63, Alexander (Burnley)for Maloney 79; Hartley (Celtic) for McFadden 81.
Booked: Iceland Palmason; Scotland Gordon.
Sent off: Scotland McManus (76).
Referee: S Gumienny (Belgium).
Yesterday's results: Iceland 1 Scotland 2; Macedonia 1 Netherlands 2.
Scotland's remaining fixtures: 11 Oct Norway (h); 28 March 2009 Netherlands (a); 1 April Iceland (h); 19 Aug Norway (a); 5 Sept Macedonia (h); 9 Sept Netherlands (h).Reuse content