Cyprus 1-2 Scotland: Steve Clarke says side are a ‘work in progress’


John McGinn (second left) got Scotland back in front after Georgios Efrem’s equaliser

Scotland are still a “work in progress” after securing a 2-1 Euro 2020 qualification win in Cyprus, says manager Steve Clarke.

Clarke says he was left with a “smile on my face” after goals by Ryan Christie and John McGinn helped the Scots into third in Group I.

Beating Kazakhstan on Tuesday would be a third win in a row for a side who can only reach the finals by the play-offs.

“That would set us up nicely for those game in March,” Clarke said.

Christie’s strike gave Scotland the lead, with McGinn adding a second after former Rangers and Dundee winger Georgios Efrem had hauled the home side level.

It followed a comprehensive 6-0 win over San Marino at Hampden last month after four consecutive defeats at the hands of Belgium and Russia.

“In Russia, the reaction to going behind wasn’t great, but tonight the reaction was really good and we got back in front with a great team goal,” said Clarke.

“We knew it would be a difficult game but I thought when we went in front we were the better team. We showed a little bit of resilience to get the three points that we wanted.

“I’m not going to say it was a fantastic performance – it was a good performance. Sometimes when you’re coming out of the run of games that we’re coming out of it’s more important to win.”

Scotland did have rocky moments in the game, with an Efrem effort when the game was goalless appearing to cross the line after striking the crossbar.

But after conceding 13 goals against Belgium and Russia, Clarke was happy to see his side keep Cyprus at just one goal.

“We have things we can improve on in the team,” he said, confirming that Steven Naismith is “fine” despite lasting just an hour.

“If you want to be really good and scintillating going forward sometimes you have to sacrifice a little defensively.

“Rather than going down the negative route I’d say we’re still a work in progress.”

Cyprus coach Ran Ben Shimon was less content, though, suggesting that the “team that tried to play football lost this game”.

He noted his surprise at the number of “long balls” his side faced and also railed against the decision not to give Efrem’s early strike.

“It was the decisive moment in the game. To lead after six minutes would have been crucial. It was half a metre inside. It was a poor performance,” he said.

“I have respect for opponents but the better team lost.”


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