Steve Clarke challenges Scotland players after Russia defeat

Steve Clarke has challenged his players to ensure last night’s fourth successive defeat is the lowest moment of Scotland’s latest dark chapter.

Scotland’s attempt to qualify automatically for next summer’s Euro 2020 finals was finally put out of its misery after a 4-0 defeat by Russia in Moscow. A play-off in the spring offers the chance of redemption and national coach Clarke is determined his side are able to take it.

A second successive 4-0 defeat left the Scots in fifth place in Group I and not even confident about the prospect of facing fellow whipping boys San Marino, who lost 9-0 to Belgium last night, at Hampden on Sunday. Two goals by Russia skipper Artem Dzyuba and one each by Magomed Ozdoev and Aleksandr Golovin condemned Scotland to their second successive 4-0 defeat.

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Clarke has been poorly served by an arduous run of fixtures since a 2-1 win over Cyprus in the first match of his reign in June.

Russia's Artem Dzyuba, second left, scores his side's third goal. Picture: AP

Four defeats have followed, with a score aggregate of 13-1.

Asked how he might turn things round before March, he said: “Hard work. Maybe one or two different selections in terms of the squad and the starting 11. It is something I have to look at.

“We can’t keep conceding goals. You have to give a nod to the quality of the opposition we have played recently, Belgium and Russia are two very good teams who I am sure will be involved in the latter stages of Euro 2020 We have to make sure this is the very, very bottom of the lowest and then build from here and make sure that come March we are able to be very, very competitive and get through the play-offs and give ourselves the chance to be in the same championships.”

Clarke vowed he was in for the long haul. But he admitted he is facing a more challenging period than he had expected as he tries to find the right formula.

“On the back four back to back 4-0 defeats it feels difficult,” he said. “But I was brought up the hard way. I am in for the fight and I believe the players are in for the fight too.”

The Scots fought well in the first half last night and restricted Russia to few clear cut chances. But they collapsed in the second half. Dundee United striker Lawrence Shankland made his debut after replacing Oli Burke at half time but there was little he could do as his side conceded four cheap goals, two within three minutes.

“We conceded a soft first goal,” said Clarke. “The first goal was soft from a corner, man on man we have to do better. From there we quickly found our way out of the game and we allowed it to run away from us. I have to put it down to fragile confidence. The players seemed to lose heart very quickly. Which is unfortunate because we had done okay up to that point.”