Alex McLeish admits Scotland have to improve and overcome the negativity that surrounds their Euro 2020 campaign after a “nervy” 2-0 win over San Marino.

The Scots got off to the start they craved after a shock opening defeat in Kazakhstan when Kenny McLean headed home inside four minutes, but the tempo tailed off and slackness grew.

Some of the near 3,000 away supporters chanted against the Scottish Football Association and booed during and after the match, and manager McLeish admitted his players were affected by the restlessness.

Scotland’s Marc McNulty acknowledges the fans
Scotland’s Marc McNulty acknowledges the fans (Simon Cooper/PA)

Johnny Russell settled fears of another shock by netting in the 74th minute but McLeish knew a 2-0 win against the lowest ranked team in the world was never going to begin the process of redemption following their 3-0 loss in the Astana Arena.

On the jeers, McLeish said: “That’s football. I have heard it over the years since I became a professional in different stages of my career.

“Sometimes the players get a bit nervous about that and that’s why sometimes you don’t see the free-flowing football that we saw in November.

Scotland manager Alex McLeish gestures on the touchline in San Marino
Scotland manager Alex McLeish gestures on the touchline in San Marino (Adam Davy/PA)

“Over the two games we had a number of changes and it’s never easy when you don’t get a momentum and a rhythm and a nucleus of the team that we want to put on the pitch.

“I think they (fans) were frustrated that we never kicked on from the first goal. We did try to keep things going. As soon as the ball went in the net, run back to the centre circle, put it down, keep the pressure on, keep the ball.

“We could see there was one or two nervy clearances, maybe clearing when they could pass.

“They are human beings. Sometimes they get affected by that but they have to come through that and if they come through it, it will make them stronger.”

McLeish had urged his players to get an early goal and keep the pressure on.


“But we got into a little rut, some stray passes, not like some of the excellent players we have,” he said. “A bit of tiredness crept in with one or two players, resulting in the substitutions.

“But getting the second goal settled us and we made four or five chances after that. Really we should have taken them. But it was great to see guys coming into the team and making chances.

“Listen, it’s been a difficult weekend for us. We knew 1-0, 2-0 was not going to be looked at in a good light, but it was important for us to win after the disappointment in Kazakhstan.

“Everybody’s hurting and we never quite got the avalanche of goals that everybody was looking for.

“But there’s reasons for that. There was a little bit of agitation when we didn’t get the second goal. The players got a bit nervy. They are only human.”


The opening loss in Kazakhstan was put into sharper focus when Russia won 4-0 at the same venue earlier on Sunday, but McLeish refuses to concede their automatic qualification hopes are over.

“The Russians probably watched our video and decided not to defend the way Scotland did for the first two goals especially,” he said. “That is what it is, we have to move forward, we can’t look back or turn the clock back.

“We know the Russians are strong, that Belgium are favourites, but it’s never over this early in any competition. I think there will be blips in the ensuing games.

“We have to get better, quite simple, and we have to get our best players in the team. If the Russians and Belgians don’t have their best players, they will have different results also.”

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