SCOTLAND 2 CYPRUS 1
STEVE CLARKE’S reign as Scotland boss got off to a triumphant start thanks to Oliver Burke’s late winner against Cyprus in the Euro 2020 qualifyier at Hampden on Saturday, June 8.
It looked as though the Scots would suffer another dreadful setback – following the opening group 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan – when Ionnis Kousoulos headed in the equaliser from a left-wing corner-kick with three minutes to play.
That cancelled out Andy Robertson’s stunning opener on the hour, but with 60 seconds to go Burke tapped home after his header struck a post.
The win keeps Clarke’s men level in the section with second-placed Russia – who thumped San Marino 9-0 – and three points behind Belgium, who eased to a 3-0 victory over Kazakhstan.
There was a surprise before kick-off when keeper David Marshall came in from the international cold to displace Scott Bain while Kilmarnock’s Eamonn Brophy made his debut in place of Burke.
Hampden was far from full – a shade over 30,000 – and they were treated to a goal of spellbinding quality from Champions League winner Robertson, the Scots skipper.
Charlie Mulgrew’s free-kick midway through the opening half tested Urko Pardo in the Cyprus goal and Ryan Fraser had a decent claim for a penalty, but that was the extent of the threat for fully 60 minutes.
Then came the breakthrough goal when John McGinn played a square pass to Robertson and the Liverpool man thundered an unstoppable salvo into the roof of the net.
Clarke put on Burke for Brophy, then Scott McTominay appeared for McGinn just after the Aston Villa midfielder had put his team in trouble when he lost possession just outside his own box and Makris’ deflected shot had Marshall retreating to push it over.
However, the goalie was helpless when Kousoulos evaded Robertson and, with time and space following a corner-kick, he headed in the equaliser.
In the fading moments, though, Burke had the final say when he thumped a header from a Fraser cross off the left-hand upright before following to knock in the winner.
A relieved Clarke celebrated on the touchline as three crucial points were secured.
SCOTLAND: Marshall; O’Donnell, Mulgrew, McKenna, Robertson; McGinn (sub: McTominay 79), McLean, McGregor (sub: Armstrong 88); Forrest, Brophy (sub: Burke 73), Fraser.