Scotland head coach Steve Clarke says his side can “look forward” after extending their unbeaten run to eight games

March 30th, 2022

Jack Hendry’s first-half header was followed by John McGinn finishing off a fine free-flowing move in Vienna.

But Michael Gregoritsch’s header pulled one back for Austria before Alessandro Schopf’s quickfire second levelled.

“We’ll take the draw and go eight unbeaten,” Clarke said post-match.

“From 2-0 it’s always a little bit disappointing to not see out a win, but its a tough place to come. Austria were competitive and they wanted to give their manager a good send off.”

Following Thursday’s late draw with Poland, it is six wins in eight games for Clarke’s men.

The Scots are due to return to action in June when the domestic campaign draws to a close, with a quartet of Nations League games currently scheduled to be played over a 10-day period.

The World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine and a potential final are also due to be rearranged for that month, but it remains to be seen whether they will replace or add to the four games already in the calendar.

“Hopefully we are playing Ukraine, that’s my one wish,” Clarke added. “If we are playing them in June that means the situation there has improved dramatically and that will be great for everyone.”

It could have been the night Scotland booked their place at a World Cup for the first time this century. If your glass is half empty, it could have been another night of heartbreak.

Instead, a subdued Ernst-Happel-Stadion, where the Austrian support looked outnumbered by the travelling Tartan Army, played host to what turned out to be an entertaining friendly.

For certain, the home fans were drowned out audibly by the visiting Scots as they watched their side break forward on the counter, resulting in Stuart Armstrong crossing for McGinn, who smashed a volley into the arms of Daniel Bachmann early on.

Craig Gordon added to his showreel of fine Scotland saves up the other end to deny Sasa Kalajdzic twice, first extending his left arm to stop a header before thwarting the Stuttgart forward at his near post with his feet.

Both chances came either side of another Scotland breakaway, with Armstrong again providing McGinn. This time, the Aston Villa man clipped a close-range effort past the far post when passing across goal to Che Adams looked the better option.

Austria, looking to give departing boss Franco Foda a positive send off in his final game in charge, were the more likely as Gordon bettered his previous two stops to prevent Marko Arnautovic bursting the net with a first-time strike.

But the Scots were always a danger on the transition as a driving run and fantastic pass from Andy Robertson led to Adams’ deflected effort hitting the side netting.

The following set-piece brought the opener. Hendry bravely nodded in a rebound after McGinn’s inswinging cross was headed off the bar by Grant Hanley – a second Scotland goal for the Club Bruges defender.

While Gordon was in inspired form, a more clinical attack would have made Scotland pay in the first half as RB Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer drilled wide from the edge of the area with the goal gaping.

Scotland looked a more resolute unit at the start of the second period and doubled their advantage when a fantastic team move ended with Kieran Tierney pulling the ball back for McGinn to smash into the roof of the net.

But Clarke’s backline began to creak again when Gregoritsch’s glancing header to the far post reduced the deficit.

Bayern Munich’s Marcel Sabitzer then drilled a shot wide, but Schopf made no mistake from similar range, guiding a low shot from the edge of the area past a rooted Gordon.

On another fantastic international display, the Hearts keeper had one more vital intervention to make, racing out to deny Andreas Weimann.

Friendly or not, that save could prove to be crucial for morale as it ensured the away side’s unbeaten run rolls on into June.

Man of the match – Craig Gordon

Craig Gordon save v Austria
With so much hype surrounding Scotland’s young talent, the 39-year-old again proved how much he has to offer between the sticks in another standout performance

What did we learn?

Scotland’s World Cup qualifying win in Vienna six months ago, a turning point in their campaign, was viewed as seismic. Now, it is the standard.

For that reason, coupled with how late both goals came, this result will sting, regardless of the importance of the fixture.

Crucially, the eight-game unbeaten run will carry on to June, when Scotland are expected to play their rearranged play-off semi-final with Ukraine – a potential career-defining game for these players.

Only between October 2019 and November 2020 have the national team enjoyed a longer unbeaten streak under Clarke, and spirit in the camp will remain high when the squad regroup in the summer.

What’s next?

Scotland are scheduled to return to action in June, beginning their Nations League campaign with a quartet of games over 10 days.

Two fixtures against Armenia bookend a home match against Ukraine and a trip to the Republic of Ireland – but there is also a play-off semi-final against the Ukrainians to rearrange, with a potential final against Wales to come.


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