Steve Clarke demands further improvement from Scotland after Israel defeat

By Gavin McCafferty, PA
·3-min read

Scotland manager Steve Clarke admitted their 1-0 defeat in Israel showed how much progress they still need to make despite ending their exile from the big stage.

Manor Solomon’s well-taken counter-attack goal in the 44th minute consigned Scotland to a second 1-0 defeat since qualifying for Euro 2020.

Scotland were four points clear in Nations League Group B2 on Sunday morning, but defeats in Slovakia and Netanya allowed the Czech Republic to leapfrog Clarke’s side and secure promotion, putting themselves in contention for a World Cup play-off place.

Israel’s Manor Solomon celebrates his goal
Israel’s Manor Solomon celebrates his goal (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Scotland created chances either side of the goal but struggled to maintain their pressure after the hour mark, before a late flurry of opportunities came to nothing.

Clarke said: “I saw a group of players who tried everything to get a result for their country.

“We wanted to finish this Nations League campaign on a high, we wanted to top the section.

“Unfortunately, similarly to Sunday, we just lacked a bit of quality, a bit of nous, a bit of calmness in the final third to get the result we needed.

“We got punished heavily for a counter-attack that we didn’t deal with, which made it a more difficult second half.

“The effort, the attitude, the application, was good. But we need to keep improving and if we want to keep improving then we need to learn to capitalise on the moments in the game when we are on top.”

Scotland’s Lyndon Dykes fights for the ball with Israel’s Neta Lavi
Scotland’s Lyndon Dykes fights for the ball with Israel’s Neta Lavi (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Clarke added: “We have come a long way in a short space of time. We shouldn’t forget how far we have come.

“But we also know how far we have got to go if we want to be regularly successful and regularly qualifying for tournaments.

“We have to learn how to come away from home and get good results. We got good results at Hampden last month and we have to learn how to do that away from home as well.

“We wanted to challenge ourselves in the A group but it wasn’t long ago we were in the C group. So next time we will be in the B group and maybe, maybe, that will give us a little bit more time to build things.”

Scotland created even more chances in Slovakia and getting more goals will be key to Clarke’s ambitions of taking his team even further – they have netted six times in eight games this season.

“Hopefully it will come,” he said. “It’s been a slow progress. It didn’t happen immediately.

“We have to keep working, we have to keep believing that we have goals in the team.

“We had 14, 15, 16 shots on goal, seven on target, and one or two were opportunities at this level, that if you want to be successful, they have to be goals.”