Steve Clarke has refused to write-off Scotland’s chances of rescuing their qualifying campaign but admits a result against Belgium on Monday night is now required.
A defeat to Russia in what many asserted was a must-win game has increased the pressure to take at least a point from the top-ranked team in the world at Hampden.
The visitors recovered after going behind just ten minutes in following John McGinn’s first international goal. A strike in each half from skipper Artem Dzyuba and Stephen’s O’Donnell unfortunate deflection earned the visitors a priceless win and leaves Scotland six points adrift of second place in Group I with a return game to come against Russia in Moscow next month. It’s just as well they have a Euro 2020 qualifying play-off place already banked under Alex McLeish although Clarke has put this firmly to the back of his thoughts.
“It is more difficult than it was before,” the manager accepted. “We spoke about three games coming up and it now looks as if we have to get something from Monday night to give ourselves a chance.
“Everyone loves the term must-win. If we get one point on Monday and three in Russia it’s still four points. There are still enough points to qualify left in the group.
“It’s up to me to find the solution,” he continued, on the latest disappointing night for Scotland fans. A change in manager has not yet had the impact desired. This was the second defeat in three matches under Clarke.
“I think we have enough talent,” he continued. “We have good players. Why we allowed it to drift away from us, whether it’s a quality thing or something else, we will have to assess.
"We will assess the players in the morning – last time I made five changes before the Belgium game (in Brussels), two enforced. It could be something similar. But it is too early to say.
"It is obviously disappointing as we felt we prepared well," he continued. "The start showed we had. We got ourselves in front and then for reasons I have to determine we stepped off the game and allowed Russia to dominate and impose their style of play on us.”
Clarke diagnosed Scotland as being too edgy in front of over 32,000 fans despite McGinn’s goal after ten minutes handing the hosts a perfect start.
“We were too nervous on the ball, there were too many possession losses and not enough threat going forward after the first twenty minutes," he said. 'We huffed and puffed at the end but did not look scoring – the free-kick from Charlie (Mulgrew) was probably the exception.
“I thought we had weathered the storm but we gave possession away to concede the second goal with a lot of players out of position. That was a disappointing to goal to lose when we were starting to get a foothold on the game again.”