Burke hits late winner for Scotland against Cyprus

Substitute Oliver Burke ensured Steve Clarke's reign as Scotland manager got off to winning start as his late goal condemned minnows Cyprus to a 2-1 defeat in their European Championship qualifying match at Hampden.

Scotland's talismanic captain Andy Robertson, buoyed by his recent Champions League success with Liverpool, fired in a sensational 61st minute strike to open the scoring.

The hosts had chances to add to their tally but Hampden was silenced in the 87th minute as Ioannis Kousoulos headed home an equaliser.

The joy amongst the small band of travelling Cypriots support was short-lived as Burke tapped in two minutes later to seal a victory that sees Clarke's side move up to third in Group I, level on points with second placed Russia.

"We put ourselves in a position to win the game with a great strike from Robertson. I couldn't see Cyprus scoring from open play but unfortunately we switched off at a set play and got severely punished for it," Clarke said of the win that moves his side up to third the group.

"But after that the players showed great character and resilience. It would have been easy for them to feel sorry for themselves but they didn't and I think that bodes well for the future."

The win comes almost 21 years to the day since Scotland faced Brazil in the opening game of France '98 - the last major tournament the Scots qualified for.

Belgium are up next for Scotland but their performance against the world's top ranked side will need to be at a much higher level if they are to leave Brussels with any kind of positive result.

The famous Hampden roar might not have been at full volume but there was an air of optimism among the near 32,000 strong Tartan Army who had become increasingly disillusioned following a shambolic start to their Group I campaign.

Scotland's 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan in their group opener followed by an unconvincing performance in the 2-0 win over lowly San Marino gave the Scots a mountain to climb in terms of automatic qualification and ultimately cost Alex McLeish his job.

- Start of new era -

In stark contrast to the unveiling of McLeish 15 months previously, Clarke, named Scottish Premiership manager of the year for leading Kilmarnock into third place in the top flight, was a popular choice among the Tartan Army.

However, there was little for the support to get excited about in the first half as the Scots seemed content to soak up the pressure while hitting Cyprus on the break - something Clarke's Kilmarnock side became adept at in the Scottish Premiership.

Scotland's main threat came down the left-hand side as Robertson linked up well with Bournemouth's Ryan Fraser and Callum McGregor of Celtic.

However, the lack of a killer final ball meant there were few opportunities for Eamonn Brophy, who was handed his debut by his former Kilmarnock boss.

A Charlie Mulgrew free-kick that was pushed round the post was as close as it got for the Scots with Cyprus more menacing in attack as Marshall saved from Antreas Makris and Pieros Sotiriou.

The hosts started the second half on the front but just as the frustration was beginning to build within Hampden, Robertson struck. The ball broke to the left-back 20 yards out and he arrowed an unstoppable shot past Urko Pardo in the Cyprus goal.

Scotland came close to doubling their lead as McGregor's shot was fumbled round the post by Pardo before the unmarked Kousoulos rose unmarked in the Scottish box to head home an equaliser.

Scotland were shocked but immediately went searching for a winner which came two minutes later through Burke. The winger, who spent the second half of the season on loan at Celtic, saw his header from a Fraser cross rebound off the post before he rifled the loose ball into the net from close range.

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