Steve Clarke called for more respect from critics after Scotland pulled off a terrific 1-0 victory over Austria to boost their 2022 World Cup qualification hopes.
After a 2-0 defeat at runaway Group F leaders Denmark and a narrow 1-0 win over Moldova at Hampden Park, it was taken as read that the Scots needed at least one point in Vienna to stay in the hunt with their opponents and Israel for a play-off spot.
As it turned out, striker Lyndon Dykes scored a VAR-awarded penalty in the 29th minute – his second goal in two games after his winner against Moldova at the weekend – to secure three crucial points which took Scotland into second, a point ahead of Israel who lost 5-0 against the Danes and visit Hampden next month.
‘We’ve got another cup final coming up’
“It was no surprise to me,” Clarke said.
“They are a really good group of players who want to be successful for their country and they showed that tonight. So it was good.
“It just means it is another cup final [against Israel]. You have to keep picking up points.
“It was an important night for us to get something from the game.
“We managed to come here and put in a good performance, a good footballing performance. When we got the ball down we passed it well.
“We are not a long ball team as some people try to label us. We can play. If we have to go long we can play and fight for it.
“If we have to make the passes we make the passes. We deserve a little bit more respect.”
‘It was a difficult week’
Clarke’s squad was decimated by injuries and coronavirus issues for the trip to Denmark last week and he believes Israel’s thrashing in Copenhagen puts his side’s defeat against the Euro 2020 semi-finalists into perspective.
The former West Brom and Kilmarnock boss said: “We had the most difficult week, really difficult.
“We went to Denmark which is a tough place to go to start with, we had a lot of injuries and problems.
“We went down 2-0 early in the game, we dug in and got criticised for that actually. Israel went there tonight and lost 5-0.
“Then on the back of that we knew we had to get something out of the next two games and we have come away with six points.
“If I had said to you that we would have come away with six points you would have all been delighted, so it was a pleasing night for us, I am really pleased for the players.”
What the players said…
Scotland striker Lyndon Dykes to Sky Sports: “We came here to win and we did that.
“With each game this week we got stronger and stronger – showing the togetherness that we have. We work hard for each other and the defending starts from the front.
“It wasn’t my best penalty but it went where I was aiming for and it went in.”
Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon to Sky Sports: “We defended the box so well when we had to. The one that came through I managed to keep out.
“From my point of view it was a quiet evening and I’ve got to give credit to the guys in front of me who were outstanding all night.
“We kept a clean sheet, that’ll be so important going forward. There wasn’t a man that let the team down and that’s exactly what we need.”
‘An outstanding defensive performance from Scotland’
Former Scotland striker James McFadden:
“I thought it was a really strong performance defensively. I thought the strikers worked a bit better too, and we deserved to win the game.
“For me, there is no debate over the penalty kick. It’s a penalty and Lyndon Dykes scored.
“What a night. There was huge pressure on this game and the players would have felt it, especially against a team wounded by a big defeat at the weekend and a team expected to win, and Austria started the game so well.
“They put Scotland under a lot of pressure, and they managed to take that pressure, absorb it and use it to fire us forward.
“Defensively it was an outstanding performance.”
Scotland are back in World Cup qualifying action next month when they host Israel on October 9, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5pm.
They also face a trip to the Faroe Islands on October 12, also on Sky Sports; kick-off 7.45pm.