STEVE CLARKE revealed he “may have a cry” after watching Scotland beat Serbia 5-4 on penalty-kicks to book a place in next summer’s Euro Championships – the nation’s first finals since the World Cup in France 22 years ago.
The international boss watched Ryan Christie give his team the advantage with a sweet strike seven minutes after the interval and it looked as though the Scots were heading for a well-earned triumph until Luka Jovic headed in a last-gasp leveller to take the encounter into a tense period of extra-time which ended without a goal.
David Marshall, the spot-kick hero in the spot-kick shoot-out against Israel in the semi-final, staged an action replay to push away Aleksander Mitrovic effort with efforts from Leigh Griffiths, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Oli McBurnie and Kenny McLean blasting Clarke’s side into June clashes with England, Croatia and the Czech Republic.
Scotland have gone on a run of nine unbeaten matches under the reign of the former Kilmarnock gaffer and he found it difficult to hide his emotions at the end of a nerve-jangling evening in sodden Belgrade.
Clarke, speaking to Sky Sports News, admitted: “It took a bit of time to get people onside, but we’ve been positive and no-one can be more proud than the players on the pitch. One or two of the boys have been in tears and that shows how much it means.
“When David Marshall saved the last penalty, I had a little glint in my eye. I may have a cry when I get to my room later.
“Normally, we fall at the final hurdle or we have the glorious failure, but I thought we were the better team in the game and deserved to be in front. We just couldn’t get the second goal to kill them off.
“To concede then from a set-play when they were throwing everybody into the box was a big setback, but you have to be so proud of the players, the way they responded to that.
“That was a sore one as we were really close to where we wanted to be. The reaction was to dig in during extra-time and we managed to do that.
“We got to penalties and we’ve managed to produce again from the penalty spot. It’s a magnificent night for everyone in Scotland.
“We said we’d try to put smiles back on faces and I hope they managed to enjoy the match as we did here in Belgrade. They can smile tomorrow.”
Scotland go back into action in the UEFA Nations double-header against Slovakia on Sunday afternoon and Israel on Wednesday evening.