REVIEW: Scotland 2 - 1 Cyprus
Updated: Jun 9, 2019
The Steve Clarke era achieved lift-off tonight, if only just.
A tale as old as time, Scotland came perilously close to dropping points at home to an opponent ranked significantly lower in the FIFA Rankings.
In the end, Oliver Burke tapped in the rebound to his own header in the 89th minute to secure all three points after Ioannas Kousoulos had levelled the game two minutes earlier.
This result has to be placed in context. After a Champions League Final that showed what a 3 week break can do for match sharpness, this performance was always going to be less than perfect. So many of the Scotland players haven't kicked a ball in weeks and it showed.
As the game progressed and grumbles from the crowd grew louder, it was essential Scotland found a way to win. They left it late but they delivered in the end. Steve Clarke's thoughts can now go to Tuesday's meeting with the #1 ranked team in the world in Brussels.
Captain Leads the Way - A week on from the greatest achievement of his career, Andy Robertson could have been forgiven for lowering his intensity levels. Hampden Park is not the Wanda Metropolitana, Cyprus are not Spurs and James Forrest is not Mo Salah.
He did nothing of the sort, putting in a captain's performance, taking the game by the scruff of the neck in the 2nd half, running from deep, linking with Ryan Fraser and scoring a beauty of an opening goal. After the season he has had it was incredible to see him still making lung busting runs up and down the wing.
The Lone Wolf - Eamonn Brophy lived up to his nickname in his debut performance for Scotland. He ploughed a lone furrow up front, often starved of service. It was hard to predict his long term future in a Scotland shirt from one performance. He will definitely hope to provide competition for the returning Griffiths and Naismith next season.
Built for speed - The safety first approach of the first half could be seen as a dress rehearsal for Tuesday's game against Belgium. Scotland sat deep and compact before looking to use the pace of Fraser, McGregor & Robertson to spring the counter attack. This Scotland squad certainly have the players to use such an approach. Oliver Burke brought even more pace from the bench in the second half.
Man of the Match - Ryan Fraser - Only Real Madrid bound Eden Hazard finished the EPL season with more assists than Ryan Fraser. Against Cyprus he showcased his pace to get in behind the defence time and again while linking up brilliantly with Andy Robertson on the left flank. Those two working in tandem will provide a frightening prospect for any defence.
Elsewhere in Group I:
Belgium 3-0 Kazakhstan
Russia 9-0 San Marino
Two expected home wins for the top two seeds in the group.
Next up - Scotland travel to Brussels on Tuesday while Russia welcome Cyprus and the Kazakhstan take on San Marino.