‘Their character and resilience shone through’ - Steve Clarke hails Scotland players after late win

Steve Clarke celebrates Oli Burke's winner. Picture: SNS Group
Steve Clarke celebrates Oli Burke's winner. Picture: SNS Group
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Scotland manager Steve Clarke lauded his team’s “resilience and character” for snatching a win late on over Cyprus in his opening game in charge.

Clarke conceded that failure to gain all three points would have ended any lingering hopes of gaining a foothold in their Euro 2020 Group I, and maintained the dramatic circumstances in which this was avoided courtesy of a decisive 88th-minute goal from substitute Oliver Burke offered “hope for the future”.

A draw looked on the cards when a free header from a corner buried by Ioannis Kousoulos after 86 minutes cancelled out a spectacular hit from Andy Robertson just after the hour mark.

But Scotland sprang off the canvas with substitute Burke snatching a winner two minutes from time to ensure the Clarke era didn’t get off to a grim start.

And Clarke sought to place his team’s toils to one side as he dared suggest the victory would allow them to head into their encounter with world No 1 ranked Belgium on Tuesday with a degree of confidence.

“I couldn’t see Cyprus scoring from open play - but unfortunately we switched off at a set play and got severely punished for it,” Clarke said.

“But after that, the character of the players to come back, the resilience they had, shone through. It would have been easy for them to feel sorry for themselves but they didn’t and that bodes well for the future.

“It’s difficult to be too critical of the players after I asked them to give us a win and they brought us three points.

“They couldn’t do any more, it was a game that came with big pressure, we knew if we didn’t get maximum points tonight the group was almost beyond us.

“So we should credit the players and not look too much at the one or two mistakes we can improve on.

“I don’t see Belgium away as a free hit. I think it will be a difficult game. We are still chasing points in the group. We left three points behind in Kazakhstan and have to recover.”