He drew encouragement from the display and was delighted with the determination shown as his side twice came from behind. The Scots now move on to play Israel in Tel Aviv on Sunday night. The Pot 4 team in the group lost 2-0 to top seeds Denmark and will be fighting to stay in the qualifying equation. Clarke has already earmarked three points to make up for the two dropped against Austria.
Scotland were close to suffering a potentially ruinous home defeat until John McGinn scored an opportunistic overhead kick with five minutes left at Hampden. The hosts had already battled back to level the scoreline when Grant Hanley headed in an equaliser after the first of Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic’s double. When the tall forward headed in his second with ten minutes left, the Scots looked set to lose their first match on home soil since qualifying for Euro 2020.
But McGinn’s stunning strike meant Scotland will head to Tel Aviv in good spirits after a performance containing grit as well as moments of inspiration. However, it does mean Scotland have still only won the opening game in three of their last 12 regular qualifying campaigns. Clarke was simply happy to get off the mark against tricky opponents.
“I’m pleased to get the point,” said the Scotland manager. “I think when you go behind twice against a very good team that’s not a bad result. The Austrians were good, we were good. It was a good game between two good teams. Yeah, we would have liked to have started with three points but we got a point. And it might be a good point.
“I know you guys always want to talk about points and we want to get the next three in Israel. But we go there on the back of a good performance with things we can improve on. We know them, they know us and we’ll be going for the three points.”
Clarke would not be drawn to any great extent on referee Carlos del Cerro Grande’s failure to award a penalty when Ryan Christie was grappled to the ground shortly after Kalajdzic put his side ahead. He did note that the impressive Kalajdzic had a later goal disallowed for a supposed push that few saw.
“I got into enough trouble when I was a club manager talking about referees so I’m just going to pass on that one,” said Clarke. “But, yes, I thought it was a penalty. When you wrap both arms around a player in the box then it should be a penalty. He did disallow a goal for them which was a little bit soft so we are not going to complain too much.”
Clarke was not getting carried away by McGinn’s acrobatics as the Aston Villa midfielder struck his eighth international goal in memorable fashion. He immediately feared the player was offside but replays proved the far-side assistant referee Diego Barbero was right to keep his flag down.
“John is quite happy with himself,” he said. “It was good because obviously having conceded a second goal we could have let our heads drop. We didn’t.”