Smiles back for Scotland as San Marino are hit for six

Scotland manager Steve Clarke was delighted to see smiles back on the faces of his players as he praised their resilience after a 6-0 win over San Marino.

John McGinn’s first-half hat-trick set Scotland up for their biggest win over San Marino in eight meetings after four consecutive European Championship qualifying defeats, the latest a 4-0 loss in Russia.

Lawrence Shankland and Stuart Findlay both netted their first Scotland goals in a second half played in terrible conditions as the ball held up on the increasingly waterlogged Hampden surface, before Stuart Armstrong scored from a late free-kick.

Clarke said: “They showed me they have a good resilient streak. It’s been a tough week for us.

“It was important we won the game but also won well, and gave the supporters something. And by the way, 20,000 people. Everybody was telling me it was going to be no attendance at all. So 20,000 people turned up, a lot of young ones there and they have seen their national team score six goals at home, so hopefully they will come back for the next game.

“I knew before the game the players were completely focused on what they had to do. They started the game quick, they moved the ball well. We got the three goals in the first half, which was great, because the conditions went more tricky in the second half.

“It would have been easy for us to slow down and see the game out but we kept pushing and pushing and pushing because we wanted to get a few goals and make sure we left this camp with at least some positivity for the next two games.

“Hopefully it repairs a little bit of the fragility that was in the squad after the four games against top opposition. It was a difficult run of fixtures and it’s nice to come out and get a game like this at home.

“I saw smiles on their faces in the dressing room after the game and it’s nice to see. The players deserve a lot of credit for bouncing back that way.”

After conceding 13 goals in four matches, Clarke was grateful for any positives and Group I now looks more palatable with Scotland a point off third spot ahead of their final two games against Cyprus and Kazakhstan, which offer a chance to gain some confidence before the play-offs in March.

“We spoke after the four defeats about finding something to help us turn the corner,” Clarke said. “If this is the first stage of turning the corner then that’s great.

“I see Russia went to Cyprus and won 5-0. I told you they were a good team. And we go to Cyprus now with the chance to go above them. That would give us the opportunity to finish third in the group, which is also an objective.”

Clarke was never concerned about the game being abandoned, even though a domestic match would surely have been halted in similar conditions.

“I didn’t really think we ever got to that stage,” he said. “For the European games I have been involved in, it takes something really, really bad for the referee to stop the game.

“The ball was moving well enough at certain times. There were bits of the pitch that were really sticky but we dealt with it.”

San Marino manager Franco Varrella was also happy to keep playing.

“The ball seemed to be bouncing,” he said. “If the match had been abandoned against that Scotland team it would have been good for us but, all in all, the conditions weren’t bad enough to cancel the game.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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