Scotland 2 Cyprus 1: Burke late show gets Clarke era up and running
Steve Clarke's Scotland tenure got off to a winning start as Oliver Burke's last-minute effort secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Cyprus in Saturday's Euro 2020 qualifier.
Clarke replaced Alex McLeish as Scotland manager in May, but he looked to be heading for a disappointing draw in his first game in charge when Ioannis Kousoulos scored with three minutes remaining.
Kousoulos' header cancelled out Andrew Robertson's stunning strike, which had put Scotland ahead just after the hour.
But parity was short lived, with substitute Burke tucking home at the second attempt after heading Ryan Fraser's cross against the woodwork.
Scotland are now third in Group I with six points from three matches, three adrift of leaders Belgium, while Cyprus are fourth in the pool.
3 - Andrew Robertson's goal was just his third in 30 appearances for the Scottish national side, and his first since September 2017 against Lithuania. Leader.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 8, 2019
In a first half of few clear chances, debutant Eamonn Brophy went closest for Scotland, heading wide from a corner after Charlie Mulgrew had forced a smart save out of Urko Pardo.
Scotland were caught out five minutes before half-time, however, and only a fine David Marshall save denied Pieros Sotiriou an opener.
James Forrest crafted an opening three minutes after the restart, but Brophy was caught on his heels and failed to latch onto the winger's cut-back.
Robertson showed no such profligacy, though, sending a wicked strike flying into the right-hand side of the goal from 25 yards out.
Stephen O'Donnell squandered a great chance to make sure of the points with 12 minutes remaining and that miss looked to have proved costly when Kousoulos headed home unmarked from a corner.
Scotland rallied, though, and Burke – on in place of Brophy – was in the right place to meet Fraser's cross and tap home on the rebound after his initial effort came back off the post.
What does it mean? Scotland well on track
A 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan signalled the end for McLeish, even if Scotland did go onto win their next qualifier against San Marino.
And with a second win on the bounce, albeit one that was far from comfortable, Scotland sit in third place in Group I, level on points with Russia, and three adrift of leaders Belgium, who they face next.
Captain fantastic Robertson leads the way
Robertson has enjoyed a stellar campaign for European champions Liverpool and led by example on Saturday, displaying plenty of confidence to take on the long-range strike that would have been worthy of claiming the points.
The 25-year-old is without doubt one of the world's finest full-backs at the moment and Clarke is fortunate to have him at his disposal.
Brophy struggles to make his mark
Having scored 11 league goals under Clarke's tutelage at Kilmarnock, Brophy was handed a senior international debut by his former club manager on Saturday, but failed to take his chance to impress, missing two golden chances either side of half-time.
His replacement Burke, though, made no such mistake with the opportunity that came his way.
Key Opta Facts:
- Scotland are unbeaten in nine competitive matches on home soil, winning six and drawing three.
- Andy Robertson's goal was just his third in 30 appearances for the Scottish national side, and his first since September 2017 against Lithuania.
- Robertson's effort was Scotland's first goal from outside the box since the skipper's effort in that Lithuania game.
- There were just 138 seconds between Cyprus' equaliser and Scotland regaining the lead through Oliver Burke in the 89th minute.
A trip to Group I favourites Belgium comes next for Scotland on Tuesday, the same day that Cyprus face Russia.