'It's a good start': Clarke content with Scotland's win over Cyprus

The national team were 3-0 winners in their first qualifier at Hampden.

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke found plenty to like about his side’s 3-0 win over Cyprus and praised players for a “good start” to Euro 2024 qualifying.

John McGinn opened the scoring at the national stadium and Scotland enjoyed control of the majority of the game before substitute Scott McTominay scored two late goals to ensure three points from the first Group A game.

Clarke was content with a solid showing, and highlighted plenty of positives, though he also revealed he had seen areas for improvement and had reminded the players at the break not to assume the points would be easily won.

“In the first 30 minutes I thought we were outstanding,” the Scotland boss said. “The rotation within the pitch, the movement on the pitch, on both sides was really good.

“We had Andy Robertson and Aaron Hickey getting forward, Kieran Tierney stepping out from the back, Ryan Porteous stepping out from the back. Stuart Armstrong picking up good positions on the move with the ball so I thought we were really good for 30 minutes and then I just thought we got a little bit sloppy, a little bit casual maybe on the pitch.

“I said to them at half-time ‘Maybe you feel it’s too easy, but it’s not because the scoreline says it’s not’. And second half was just about trying to pick up the momentum we had in the first 30 and it maybe took a little bit longer to do that.

“You’re always looking for the second goal in a game like that, because, you know, the second goal is probably the crucial goal.

“It’s a good start to the group, three points, some good things and some things that are not so good that we have to get a little bit better at.

“But overall, very pleasing. Nice to start the group with what looks like a comprehensive home win with a 3-0 scoreline.”

‘All about the squad’

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – MARCH 25: the Scotland players celebrate as Scott McTominay makes it 2-0 during a UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifier between Scotland and Cyprus at Hampden Park, on March 25, 2023, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Scotland’s second and third goals came after Clarke had made changes to the team and he was happy to highlight the contribution those players had made, not least Scott McTominay with his two late goals.

However, the manager also noted some areas for improvement before group top seeds Spain arrive on Tuesday.

“It’s all about the squad,” he said. “One of the things I said to them before the game was that our squad is our strength so we need to utilise it.

“When you think of the impact of Lyndon Dykes, Ryan Christie and Scott McTominay coming off the bench, it’s not bad.

“Cyprus also at that time have to come out and try to get to 1-1 so they take a defender off, open the game a little bit and we manage to capitalise on it, which is nice.

“The negative is that at times I felt we didn’t get the press quite right and it’s something I think we will have to be better at on Tuesday night against better quality opposition.

“Normally our press is pretty good, especially at home so I didn’t like that and I didn’t like that we got a little bit casual in possession at times. But I think the positives outweigh the negatives.”

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