Clarke needs quick return to form as Scots misfire
Republic of Ireland 3 Scotland 0
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Scotland went into their tie with Ireland for once as favourites, given an unbeaten record in Dublin stretching back almost 60 years. The Irish have also struggled to find any sort of form, losing their opening Nations League matches against Armenia and Ukraine.
The form book, however, counted for nothing on a night when Scotland’s frailties returned in spades and the defence exposed more holes than the local golf course.
Scotland arrived with uncharacteristic optimism following their easy opening victory over the Armenians, yet they rolled over in the first half against an Irish team that were determined to put recent results behind them. They found Scotland willing victims on a night that restored Irish pride.
So much for Steve Clarke’s revival – one observer said it was as bad as some of the worst stuff served up during Berti Vogts’ calamitous spell in charge.
Even without the prolific Callum Robinson, who has notched seven goals from 27 internationals, Stephen Kenny’s depleted team found a way to win that evaded Scotland’s own willingness to build on recent successes. The defeat to Ukraine in the recent World Cup qualifier at Hampden perhaps exposed the level of Scotland’s abilities.
The under-performing Scots also provided some relief for Kenny, a former Dunfermline Athletic manager, who had come into the game on 12 Nations League games without a win.
Clarke had acknowledged his team’s weakness in defence and changed all three centre backs with John Souttar, Jack Hendry and Scott McKenna lining up in place of Scott McTominay, Grant Hanley and Liam Cooper. Stephen Ralston also came in at right back for Aaron Hickey, although Craig Gordon remained in goal and captain Andy Robertson at left back.
It was not enough to prevent a one-sided victory for the hosts, and will prompt some further soul-searching ahead of Tuesday’s tie in Armenia.
Ireland: Browne (20′), Parrott (28′), Obafemi (51′)