Scotland boss Clark delighted with Armenia victory but admits it can’t make up for World Cup failure
Scottish boss Steve Clarke is delighted to come back with the nine-man win over Armenia but admits it can’t make up for the disappointment of the World Cup play-off failure
Steve Clarke praised Scotland for their recovery with a 4-1 win over nine-man Armenia, but admitted the World Cup elimination had rendered their four-game international camp a failure.
The national team boss came under pressure after a dismal 3-0 defeat to Ireland on Saturday, close on the heels of Qatar’s deserved 3-1 2022 play-off semi-final loss to Ukraine in Hampden.
But after Armenia took advantage of Scotland’s poor defense to race to a sixth-minute lead thanks to Vahan Bichakhchyan, two goals from Stuart Armstrong put the visitors on either side of a red card for Arman Hovhannisyan ahead.
Steve Clarke praised Scotland for rebounding with a 4-1 win over Armenia with nine men
Further strikes in the second half from John McGinn and Che Adams secured a comfortable win in this unmissable game before Kano Hovhannisyan also saw red for the ill-tempered hosts.
Clarke was delighted to still have Scotland’s fate in Nations League Group B1 in their own hands after home and away wins over Armenia, but admitted it couldn’t make up for Ukraine’s disappointment.
Scotland’s boss said: ‘Two wins against Armenia won’t make this international camp a good one, because it wasn’t.
“We have failed in our primary goal: to make it to the World Cup.
Stuart Armstrong (right) scored two first-half goals to put Scotland 2-1 at halftime
“We failed there and in Dublin we performed very poorly, which left us behind again.
“It’s nice to bounce back, but there’s work to be done.
“It was a game we wanted to win – and a game we probably had to win – although not necessarily mathematically.
“It gives us the chance to go into the remaining Nations League games in September with a realistic chance of out-performing the group. That’s what we wanted.’
Scotland started slow against an Armenian attack and Clarke cited fatigue among his players at the end of a long season.
Scotland recovered from their 3-0 defeat to Ireland on Saturday
He said: ‘There was a reaction to the long journey and the flight. There’s a lot of fatigue in the legs of the players, which we haven’t talked about much because we don’t want to make excuses.
“But it was there and Armenia got in behind us. But the players showed a lot of character to come back.
“It was a difficult program for the players, but we have not made any apologies so far. There are no excuses for the two games we lost.”
Clarke confirmed that captain Andy Robertson, and defenders Scott McKenna and John Souttar were not close to making the game.
‘Not around. They didn’t even travel,” he said.
But he played the angry scenes full-time when players got involved in a pushing match and water bottles were thrown by Armenian fans after Hovhannisyan’s vicious red card tackle on Lewis Ferguson.
Captain John McGinn scored one and assisted one as Scotland finished second in Group B1
“I don’t think there was too much,” Clarke said.
“To be fair to their coaching staff, they were pretty quick on the field and made sure everyone was calm.
“Look, there were some hard tackles towards the end of the game and professional players will always react to that.
“But it was nothing.
“I was more concerned about the bottles being thrown on the pitch after the tackle on Lewis. I saw one bounce in the middle of the field. It was a bull’s eye!
“I thought we had the game under control when it was 1-1.
“Those (hard) challenges and tackles come from dominating possession and controlling the game.
Both Arman (pictured) and Kamo Hovhannisyan were sent to Armenia against Scotland
“I’m glad the fans saw a good performance tonight.
“The realistic fans know what we are doing and what we are trying to do. The rest? We can’t control that.’
Meanwhile, with two goals, Armstrong hopes Ukraine will see a different Scotland when they face each other in a Nations League double header on either side of a home game against Ireland in September.
He said: ‘It’s always nice to score goals for your country. The three points were huge.
“The ambition was to go to the World Cup and we didn’t succeed.
Criticism is part of the game and if you don’t perform it will always be there.
“But we will have the chance to play against Ukraine again – and next time it will be different.”