McLeish hails important step for new-look Scotland

Alex McLeish felt Scotland’s 1-0 victory in Hungary was a major result in the evolution of his new-look team.

Matt Phillips’ first international goal secured a first victory of McLeish’s second spell in charge after he returned to action with a home defeat against Costa Rica on Friday.

McLeish had handed out five debuts at Hampden but the seven players who came into the starting line-up in Budapest largely had more experience, although Celtic defender Jack Hendry made an assured introduction to international football.

The Scotland boss said: “It is (a big night). I was asked earlier if the criticism was over the top. I must admit I didn’t see much criticism coming from you guys in the press.

“We didn’t quite get our rhythm in the first half (against Costa Rica) and it was a lot down to players who had never played with each other before.

“Tonight there was a wee bit of familiarity and there were outstanding performances from young players that we believe have got a great future.”

Scotland’s central midfield trio of Callum McGregor, Stuart Armstrong and John McGinn began to dominate after the opening 20 minutes and the visitors kept their composure after Charlie Mulgrew’s saved penalty to take the lead in the 48th minute when Phillips swept home wing-back Ryan Fraser’s cross.

Allan McGregor made some decent saves but Scotland were generally comfortable at the back and kept their shape despite a raft of late substitutions, including debutant Barry Douglas.

McLeish said: “The evidence is there for them now. We can work on that. They see that they won a game and we use that to empower them with the confidence they should take from that.

“It was great to see us finally put the ball in the back of the net and we by and large controlled the game. We played to a very decent level.

“Our two young central defenders were really good, they played to a great level. Jack came in for his first game and he was super-confident. He’s got that demeanour and he concentrated for the whole game. Equally, Charlie marshalled the two guys and Scott McKenna probably had an even better game than he did on Friday.”

West Brom winger Phillips grew into his central striker’s role and finished well.

“Matt is a versatile player,” McLeish said. “He probably would say centre-forward is not his absolute best position. But we needed a goal or two and we got one and it was enough.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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