UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier
Scotland 2-1 Cyprus
Saturday, 8 June 2019, kick-off 7.45pm
Scorers: Robertson 61, Burke 88; Kousoulos 86
Oli Burke’s dramatic late goal ensured that Steve Clarke’s tenure as Scotland manager would get off to a winning start, overcoming a dogged Cyprus side to record a 2-1 victory at Hampden Park this evening.
Andy Robertson had given the home side the lead in spectacular fashion just after the hour mark, as over 31,000 spectators saw their team claim a valuable three points in the hunt for UEFA EURO 2020 qualification.
Already in full voice, Scotland almost made the perfect start with just five minutes on the clock. Callum McGregor’s through ball found James Forrest, the winger linking up well with Ryan Fraser before firing a rasping drive just over the crossbar.
Clarke’s men were looking comfortable in possession, as the midfield trio of McGregor, John McGinn and Kenny McLean sought to dictate proceedings in the early exchanges. The wider channels were also proving to be a successful outlet for the hosts, with Robertson dove-tailing with Fraser to offer a constant threat down the left-hand side.
The visitors were struggling to sustain an attacking threat of their own, yet Antreas Makris forced David Marshall into action on 18 minutes with a drive from the edge of the Scotland penalty area. The Hull goalkeeper – winning his first cap for almost three years – was equal to the test, however, keeping the game goalless in the late evening sunshine.
Marshall’s counterpart Urko Pardo was also busy, with the Cypriot goalkeeper getting down well to turn a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick behind on 26 minutes. From the resulting corner Eamonn Brophy was unable to bundle the ball home, the Kilmarnock striker heading wide under pressure.
The chances kept coming for the home side – a surging run from Robertson raised the volume levels inside Hampden, before Forrest’s deflected shot was fielded by Pardo. Cyprus then served a reminder of their own capabilities, as Pieros Sotiriou drew a smart stop from Marshall shortly before the half-time whistle.
Scotland continued to press at the start of the second half, as Forrest’s trickery and acceleration saw him burst into the Cyprus penalty area. The Celtic winger was unable to find Brophy with the cutback, however, as Ioannis Kousoulos recovered to defuse the situation for the visitors.
The breakthrough finally arrived in emphatic fashion on 61 minutes. After relentless pressure from Clarke’s side, McGinn’s pass to the left found Robertson. The Scotland captain took one touch, before sending a rocket of a strike into the top corner of Pardo’s net from 25 yards. The Hampden roar was at full volume, and Scotland had the lead.
Yet the hosts were far from content with just sitting on that advantage. Just five minutes later, McGregor almost doubled his side’s lead, his drive from the edge of the penalty area almost finding a way into the bottom corner.
Still Scotland came forward. After Marshall produced an acrobatic save to deny Makris, a fluid counter-attack saw a rampaging Stephen O’Donnell run the length of the pitch to be on the end of a Fraser through ball only to slide a shot agonisingly wide of the left-hand upright.
Fraser was the next to go in search of the elusive second goal, the Bournemouth winger forcing a good save from Pardo after being played through by Scott McTominay.
Yet with four minutes to play, Cyprus silenced the Scotland fans with an equaliser that came against the run of play. A corner looped into the penalty area found Kousoulos unmarked, the right-back directing his header past Marshall to tie the game.
Scotland’s response was almost immediate. A delightful cross from Fraser was glanced goalward by substitute Burke, who reacted the quickest when his header struck the post to fire home the rebound for his first goal in a Scotland shirt. Hampden erupted, with Clarke himself leading the celebrations from the touchline. The final whistle only served to amplify the noise from the Scotland supporters, as a valuable three points capped off a positive start to the new manager’s reign.
Scotland: Marshall; O’Donnell, Mulgrew, McKenna, Robertson (capt); McGinn (McTominay 78) McLean, McGregor (Armstrong 86); Forrest, Brophy (Burke 72), Fraser.
Subs not used: Bain, McLaughlin, Palmer, Souttar, Findlay, Russell, McNulty, Cairney, Taylor.
Cyprus: Pardo; Kousoulos, N Ioannou, Laifis, Margaca; Spoljaric (Kosti 69), Artymatas, Makris Pittas 80); Efrem, Sotiriou, M Ioannou (Georgiou 66).
Subs not used: Petrou, Michael, Vasiliou, Katelaris, Antoniou, Mytidis, Avraam, Antoniades.
Man of the match: Andy Robertson