Steve Clarke watched Scotland take a step closer to Euro 2024 with a 3-0 win over Cyprus but claimed the best part of the night was a late Ryan Porteous block to keep a clean sheet.
Scott McTominay opened the scoring in the sixth minute in Larnaca with his sixth goal in five qualifiers before defender Porteous volleyed in his first international goal nine minutes later.
McTominay set up midfielder John McGinn for a third after 29 minutes and although the Scots cruised the second half, Porteous dived full length in stoppage time to stop a Cyprus shot testing Angus Gunn.
“For me, the best moment of the game,” said Clarke
“That tells everybody what we are about. We didn’t want to concede.
“We spoke at half-time about maybe we can get four, maybe we can get five but the most important thing is Cyprus gets nil and that block at the end tells you everything about this team and the mentality they have got.
“It was good, another step on the road to what we want to do, which is qualify.
“It was a good performance, goals in the first half, well-controlled the second half. We have to be pleased.
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) September 8, 2023
“It showed they were keyed up for the game. It was nice on a night like this when it was hot and humid, you get yourself in front so you don’t have to chase the game. ”
The Scots have five wins out of five Group A qualifiers to sit nine points ahead of Spain having played two fixtures more.
Scotland host England in a special 150th anniversary heritage match on Tuesday night and if Norway and Georgia draw in their qualifier the same evening, then the Scots will have reached their second successive European Championships.
Clarke’s side still have games against Spain, Georgia and Norway to come and the manager remains reluctant to look any further forward than Tuesday.
He said: “I’m pleased that fans can enjoy another win. Pleased that they think they can book their flights.
“Fans can do what they want, they can be excited, they can get carried away
“We have to focus on what we are at. If 15 points is enough we will find our later down the line.
“I am pleased for the players and obviously it is good for me to be the head coach of a bunch of talented players. But lets’ make sure we qualify then we will work on the next target.
“We have played five games and have 15 points, that is good.
“I’d like to think in the last three games we would pick up more points. We just keep trying to push ourselves and not be complacent. We are in a good position.”
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) September 8, 2023
Cyprus boss Temuri Ketsbaia had no complaints about the defeat which left his side with no points from four Group A fixtures.
The former Newcastle, Wolves and Dundee player, speaking through an interpreter, said: “We lost to a better team, everything was finished in a 10-minute spell in the first half.
“It was a fair result.
“We managed to improve in the second half but the match was finished at half-time.
“We lost to a high-level team. We needed a bigger effort from all the team, not just from four or five players, you need more.”