Clarke used 15 players on a memorable night in Vienna and he stressed the point that many of those who contributed to Scotland’s best away result since beating France 1-0 in Paris 14 years ago played in the Scottish Premiership.
“Every player was outstanding, including the substitutes coming on the pitch,” he said. “Paul McGinn Hibs, Lewis Ferguson Aberdeen, Kevin Nisbet Hibs, Stephen O’Donnell Motherwell….that’s a good sprinkling as well as all the mainstays and the big names. That’s a good sprinkling of players playing in the Scottish Premiership, that pleases me immensely.”
Craig Gordon also played a vital part on his 60th appearance when saving a Christian Baumgartner header 11 minutes from the end to preserve the lead earned through Lyndon Dykes’ first-half penalty. The 38-year-old Hearts goalkeeper has made a remarkable return as first-choice for Scotland – he was in goal for that victory against France in a Euro 2008 qualifier in September 2007.
“The number of times they got the ball into the box, eventually they were going to get one good contact on it and that is when you need your goalkeeper – and that is why Craig Gordon is still playing at 38, a top goalkeeper makes the big save when we needed it,” said Clarke.
The manager did not get too hot under the collar about the pivotal moment in the game which saw Scotland being awarded a penalty after VAR intervened following a Martin Hinteregger challenge on Che Adams in the box.
The Eintracht Frankfurt defender had just been booked for a wild tackle but while Bulgarian referee Georgi Kabakov gave the penalty when he reviewed the challenge, he did not issue the expected second yellow card that would have ended Hinteregger’s involvement with over an hour left.
“Not really too sure what the rules are, and I am not going to moan about it now we have the penalty from a VAR decision and we won the game with that penalty,” said Clarke. “If someone says the rules are different and the guy should have been sent off….
“I am not a big fan of the double jeopardy, I think it was a foul, maybe should have been a yellow – I am not sure about the red. I do not know the rules.”
Clarke now wants Scotland to focus on the job in hand. There are four games left. Next month’s doubleheader begins with a home clash against Israel, who slipped to third place in the group after losing 5-0 in Denmark. Scotland then head to old foes the Faroe Isles.
“It just means the next game is another cup final,” said Clarke. “We need to keep picking up points.
“The important thing was to get something from the game. We managed to come here and give a good performance, a good footballing performance when we got the ball down and passed the ball well. We are not a long ball team. That is how some people try to label us. We can play.”