Che Adams’ second goal for the country he committed himself to earlier this year was ultimately enough for the Scots against initially dangerous opponents whose fire was doused when Vahid Selimovic was shown a straight red card 10 minutes before the interval.
It was a professional job from the Scots, although it lacked the levels of enterprise and fluency they had displayed in the 2-2 draw against Netherlands in Portugal four days earlier.
The margin of victory should have been far more comprehensive and Scotland’s profligacy in front of goal was a cause for concern ahead of the Euro 2020 finals where making the most of their chances could hold the key to Clarke’s hopes of leading them through Group D and into the knockout stages.
But the manager can generally feel satisfied by the manner in which his players have gone about their business as they build-up to the momentous opener against Czech Republic at Hampden next Monday.
Shuffling the pack
With Clarke again able to call upon the six players who were omitted from the midweek fixture against the Dutch as a precautionary measure following John Fleck’s positive Covid test, he made seven changes to his starting line-up.
The battle for the defensive places in his now preferred 3-5-2 formation saw Grant Hanley and Declan Gallagher given the opportunity to stake their claims for roles alongside certain starter Kieran Tierney.
With both Jack Hendry and Liam Cooper having done their prospects no harm at all in the 2-2 draw against the Dutch, the onus was on the incoming duo to match those standards.
But in a highly competitive opening half hour or so before Luxembourg were reduced to 10 men, there were moments when Scotland appeared uncomfortably vulnerable at the back.
Hanley was certainly a relieved man in the eighth minute when his failure to properly pick up Selimovic at a corner saw his blushes spared by David Marshall as the goalkeeper made an outstanding save low to his left to deny the hosts an early lead.
Most of Scotland’s best work tended to come down their left flank where Clarke’s system has proved both Tierney and Andrew Robertson can operate effectively in the same line-up.
Striking up a relationship
A trademark cross with pace and precision from captain Robertson saw Lyndon Dykes come agonisingly close to making the breakthrough when his headed smacked off goalkeeper Anthony Moris’ left hand post.
Adams might have done better when he then mistimed a header from a fine cross by Tierney but the Southampton striker soon made up for it as he put Scotland ahead in the 27th minute.
Clarke would be encouraged by the signs of a good relationship forming between Dykes and Adams as they combined well for the goal, although he would also be frustrated at their late failure to add to the tally.
A driving run from Dykes saw him show good awareness and an unselfish streak to play in Adams who rolled a low shot under Moris.
The dynamic of the contest was changed by Selimovic’s rashly incurred red card, the defender leaving the referee with no option when he pulled down Dykes as the big front man raced clear onto an excellent through ball from Adams.
Gilmour shines in brief cameo
Scott McKenna, another of Clarke’s defensive contenders, replaced Gallagher at the start of the second half with Billy Gilmour also entering the fray to take over from Callum McGregor in midfield.
Gilmour wasted no time in making a positive impression, the Chelsea teenager sliding a shot narrowly wide of target. His quick feet in possession and game intelligence caught the eye throughout what proved to be an unfortunately brief cameo outing.
He was denied his first Scotland goal after brilliantly working his way into a shooting position and forcing a smart save from Moris. Gilmour was making a compelling case for major involvement in the tournament when his contribution was cut short by a dreadfully late and high challenge from Luxembourg substitute Olivier Thill which merited more than the yellow card he received for it.
A dazed Gilmour was desperate to continue but Scotland’s medical staff understandably took a precautionary approach and he was replaced by James Forrest.
Nathan Patterson made his Scotland debut when he replaced Stephen O’Donnell for the final half hour or so and the Rangers teenager looked anything but out of place. He is an outstanding option for Clarke in the right wing-back role.
Scotland were scarcely troubled at the back in the second half but despite their dominance of possession and territory they were worryingly wasteful in front of goal. Dykes and Adams both missed opportunities they would expect to take, while Scott McTominay joined them in letting the home defence off the hook when he contrived to miss with a header from close range.
It didn’t matter for Scotland on this occasion but they will need to find a more ruthless streak when the real action gets underway next week.
Luxembourg (4-4-1-1): Moris, Jans, Selimovic, Mahmutovic, Pinto; Rodrigues, Skenderovic (Da Mota 84), Carlson, Sinani (O.Thill 71); S.Thill (Martins 84); Deville (Bohnert 64). Subs not used: Korac, Philipps, Veiga, Curci, Schon, Dzogovic, Fox.
Scotland (3-5-2): Marshall, Hanley, Gallagher (McKenna 46), Tierney; O’Donnell (Patterson 64), McGregor (Gilmour 46)(Forrest 76), McGinn, McTominay, Robertson (Fraser 64); Adams, Dykes (Nisbet 82). Subs not used: Gordon, Taylor, Armstrong, Turnbull, McLaughlin, Hendry.