Steve Clarke hails Scotland’s character and depth after late Norway comeback win

By Sports Desk June 17, 2023

Scotland manager Steve Clarke hailed the character and depth in his squad following their sensational late Euro 2024 qualifying comeback in Oslo.

Clarke’s men stunned Norway with an unlikely turnaround as goals from Lyndon Dykes and substitute Kenny McLean in the final four minutes of normal time earned the Group A leaders a 2-1 victory.

McLean was one of three changes Clarke made in the 79th minute and it proved just in time after Scotland struggled to pose a threat and fell behind to Erling Haaland’s 61st-minute penalty after the striker went down when Ryan Porteous got hold of his shirt.

With Spain not playing, Scotland extended their lead at the top of Group A and moved eight points ahead of third seeds Norway.

Clarke said: “I was pleased with the performance, we were disciplined and passed it quite well at times.

“Obviously, you have got to soak up a lot of pressure against a good Norwegian team. And we never stopped believing. We keep going to the end and got our rewards.

“It says a lot about the character, the spirit, the quality from the bench. One of the things I keep banging on about with this group of players, the quality we have got, they want to do well for their country.

“And when I turn to the bench and I know I need to make changes to freshen it up, I am putting top-quality players on the pitch.

“It was just about getting the timing right. After losing the goal, I felt it was better just to stay in the fight for a little bit to make sure the game didn’t run away from us.

“After that we had to chase the game, it was pretty logical – you are going to take off a defender and push John McGinn a little bit further forward.

“We brought Kenny to the game, Billy Gilmour to the game, brought Stuart Armstrong to the game, fresh legs to try and get forward and they were involved in most of the best things towards the end of the game.

“Even Dominic (Hyam) comes on at the end and sticks his head on a couple. Congratulations to Dominic, first cap, not a bad place to do it, not a bad score.”

Scotland’s win already puts them in a strong position with a perfect record ahead of Tuesday’s visit of Georgia, which will mark the halfway point in the campaign.

Clarke said: “If we want to qualify for major tournaments, you know you have to go away from home against good teams and pick up points. This is three points which is big but we have to go again.

“They are all in there recovering in an ice bath and we have to make sure we get three points on Tuesday to capitalise. It sets us up nicely for Tuesday, I am not looking beyond that.”

Porteous is suspended for Tuesday after picking up a yellow card but Kieran Tierney could feature despite hobbling off, not long after the opener.

When asked how the Arsenal defender was, Clarke said: “Tired. Just tired. He didn’t join us for the training camp. Not released by his club.

“He joined us at the start of this week and felt a bit of tightness in his quad so we just protected him all week.

“To get a good hour out of the lad was fantastic and shows that everybody is prepared to put their body on the line. And then we are bringing on Liam Cooper who is a top-quality defender.”

Norway manager Stale Solbakken – whose side were left bottom of the group – bemoaned the turning point of the game when his defender’s interception fell for Dykes to nudge home.

“It was an accident for Leo Ostigrad. I think it was cramp in both legs at the same time,” he said. “That’s how it is, we can’t blame him for that. I will have to take the blame for not substituting him if it was like that.

“We are in a very difficult position.”

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