One of the proudest days of Aberdeen defender Mikey Devlin’s career quickly turned into a nightmare as the Scots were routed in Moscow.
The Aberdeen centre-back’s first cap finally arrived when boss Steve Clarke pitched the 26-year-old in from the start of the Euro 2020 Group I qualifier against Russia.
A high point for the centre-back and his family and for almost an hour it was going to plan as the Russians, second in the table, were held at bay.
Until the 57th minute when Artem Dzyuba out-muscled centre-back Charlie Mulgrew to score the opener.
After that Scotland fell apart defensively to suffer their second four-goal Euro qualifier loss in a row after Belgium last month.
It was a sobering international experience Devlin accepts he must quickly learn from.
The defender, who is in contention to face minnows San Marino at Hampden tomorrow, said: “It’s a learning curve and I’ll need to learn quickly.
“It was a special moment for me and my family to get my first cap. I’m grateful to the manager for giving me the opportunity.
“However, it was not the memory I wanted as regards to the result.”
The game completely turned with Russia scoring twice within three minutes to pile more misery on a horrendous qualifying campaign for the Scots.
Magomed Ozdoev netted a stunning second before captain Dzyuba got in between Devlin and Mulgrew to add another.
The Scottish defence disintegrated for the fourth as intricate passing inside the box led to a fourth from Aleksandre Golovin.
Devlin said: “For the first 57 minutes until they scored their first goal we weren’t giving Russia their own way. We stuck to the game plan and tried to counter-attack them.
“However, the final pass and the quality wasn’t quite there.
“Ultimately, though, it did seem like a collapse in the final half hour. I’m not sure why that happened.
“It was rough for us in that half hour as we conceded some bad goals. We must look at ourselves.”
Devlin was pitched into the starting line-up due to an injury crisis. Mulgrew was the only available centre-back with any senior international experience.
The Don and the two other centre-backs, Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock) and Declan Gallagher (Motherwell), had yet to be capped. Clarke put his faith in the more experienced of the uncapped trio, Devlin.
Prior to meeting up with the Scotland squad Devlin had been dropped to the bench for the 1-1 draw with Hibs following the heavy 5-0 defeat at Rangers.
Although back in training just three days after five weeks out with a hamstring injury Scotland international Scott McKenna was pitched back into the Reds team to displace Devlin.
Despite the Scots’ centre- back problems it was decided in consultation with the Dons and Clarke that McKenna not be called up and instead be given the international break to work on his training and fitness.
Devlin was set to earn his first cap last November when scheduled to start the UEFA Nations League tie with Bulgaria.
However, he suffered a foot injury while training with the Scots that forced him to withdraw from the squad.
The repercussions of what initially seemed a fairly innocuous ankle injury were major for Devlin as he would miss the League Cup final loss to Celtic.
Devlin, arguably Aberdeen’s best performer until suffering that injury, was ultimately sidelined for three months.
It was the latest setback for Devlin who had a year out having suffered cruciate ligament damage at former club Hamilton.
Dons boss Derek McInnes signed Devlin when he was out injured and took him to Pittodrie to continue his rehabilitation.
McInnes insists being recognised by Scotland after so many setbacks is testament to the mental strength of the defender.
He said: “Mikey has real resilience. You have to be resilient when you have had injuries as it is a test for you both physically and mentally.
“You need to find that resolve, response and that strength.
“It is important to have a positive mindset. I know Mikey has that and that has stood him in good stead.”
Devlin was a late call-up to the Scotland squad last month for the Euro 2020 qualifying double header losses to Russia and Belgium.
Manager Clarke turned to the Dons defender after injury withdrawals in September.
That call-up came just 24 hours after returning to the team following a seven-week absence triggered by a hamstring injury sustained in the 2-1 defeat of RoPS Rovaniemi in the opening game of the season.
When he returned to fitness Devlin had lost his place in the Dons team and had to be patient to force his way back in again.
McInnes said: “It was good that Mikey was named in the original Scotland squad this time.
“He perhaps got in last time through circumstances.
“What it tells me is that Mikey has obviously done well when he is away with Scotland.
“That is what I say to my players when they go away on international duty.
“Even if they are not playing in the game then still try to do well through your training and let the manager see you.
“Mikey has obviously shown the manager that through the right approach to his training.”