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Steve Clarke: Scotland head coach says side have 'grown a little bit'

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'Lukaku gave me a hug and apologised'

Scotland have "grown a little bit" in the past week, despite losing to Belgium in Euro 2020 qualifying, says new national head coach Steve Clarke.

Clarke's side lost 3-0 to the world's highest-ranked side in Brussels on Tuesday after a narrow 2-1 Hampden win over Cyprus on Saturday.

The former Kilmarnock manager replaced Alex McLeish last month after he was sacked following defeat in Kazakhstan and a below-par victory in San Marino.

"They want to get better," said Clarke.

"I think we have shown with the work we have done in this camp that there have been improvements, but there has to be more. We have to be better with the ball when we have it.

"We have things to work on but the overall feeling I have is that we have grown a little bit as a squad of players already and in the next camp we should grow again.

"It's two vital home qualifiers [Russia and Belgium] against the two favourites to come out of the group. We have to be ready for that."

'I told them to believe in the way of playing'

Clarke highlighted the fine margins that steered a dominant Belgium to victory in Brussels to leave Scotland fourth in qualifying Group I.

Romelu Lukaku's headed opener came after Scotland switched off just moments before half-time, while replays showed Kevin de Bruyne was offside in the build-up to Lukaku's prodded second.

By the time De Bruyne slammed home a third at the death, Clarke had also witnessed Scotland centre-half Scott McKenna denied by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after a rampaging run.

"We didn't deserve to lose the third goal at the end," said the Scotland head coach. "I could say the second goal was offside, and conceding the first right on half-time was a big blow.

"I thought we did well to recover from that. I told them to believe in the way of playing that we had. I told them not to panic if it went 2-0. I said 'if it goes 2-0 and we get the chance for 2-1 it would be a nervy finish for them'.

"Unfortunately we fluffed our lines a little bit with a big chance for 2-1. It's probably unfortunate it fell to big Scott and the second chance fell to James [Forrest], who couldn't quite get it out of his feet."

Shortly before kick-off, it emerged that captain Andy Robertson would be missing due to a hamstring injury, with the inclusion of debutant Greg Taylor one of five changes made by Clarke.

"He didn't surprise me," he said of the Kilmarnock left-back. "I've worked with Greg for 18 months and I knew he was ready. I thought his performance was excellent from start to finish.

"It was a big ask for him but I know his temperament and his character. He showed everyone tonight he was deserving of the start he got."

Steve Clarke
Steve Clarke greets Greg Taylor at full-time