Sat, Mar 23, 2019 - Page 16 News List

McLeish refuses to quit after Scotland humiliated

AFP, ALMATY, Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s Yan Vorogovskiy celebrates after scoring against Scotland in their UEFA Euro 2020 Group I qualifier in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday.

Photo: AP

Alex McLeish on Thursday refused to quit as Scotland manager after their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign got off to a “horrible” start with a humiliating 3-0 defeat against Kazakhstan.

The hosts, ranked 117th in the world, struck twice inside 10 minutes through Yuriy Pertsukh and Yan Vorogovskiy to leave an under-strength Scotland shell-shocked in the Group I clash in Nursultan.

McLeish’s men secured the safety net of a playoff to qualify via the UEFA Nations League in November last year and already that looks like their only realistic route to a first major tournament in 22 years as Baktiyor Zainutdinov’s terrific header made it 3-0 six minutes into the second half.

It was one of the most embarrassing results in Scotland’s history and McLeish admitted his players had paid the price for their woeful start.

“It was horrible. They hit us with two blockbusters,” McLeish said. “It was disappointing not to see a great reaction from that. At halftime we tried to change it a wee bit to see if we could unsettle Kazakhstan, but they were very sharp on the night.”

“It’s a sore one. The facts are that we were beaten by a team ranked lower than us. On paper, we should win, but I think you have to give Kazakhstan a bit of credit for the way they played,” he said.

Scotland have a painful history of falling victim to shock results against the game’s minnows, but Kazakhstan are the lowest ranked nation to beat Scotland.

In terms of the misery inflicted only a 1-0 defeat against Lithuania in a Euro 2004 qualifier in 2003 and a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in the 1990 FIFA World Cup compare to the Kazakhstan shocker.

A draw against the Faroe Islands in 2002 was another low point, as were the 1978 World Cup draw with Iran and a 4-0 thrashing by Norway in 2009.

When it was put to McLeish that it could be enough to cost him his job, the former Rangers manager vowed to fight on.

“I’ll just continue doing my job and suffice it to say I’m not going to get drawn into that question,” he said. “It possibly puts more pressure on me. We have introduced a few new names over the last year or so and it can take time, but I know we don’t have time.”

Asked if the loss was the worst of his career, McLeish added: “I don’t really rank defeats. I just feel in terms of losing then I have to bounce back. I always feel low after a defeat, but I’m pretty good at bouncing back.”

Bouncing back with victory away to San Marino tomorrow is now imperative for Scotland to have any chance of automatic qualification from Group I by finishing in the top two, but with Russia and World Cup semi-finalists Belgium also in the group, Scotland already have a mountain to climb.

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