BELGRADE, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Scotland manager Steve Clarke said he was overjoyed to give the Scottish people something to cheer about during “a difficult time for the nation” amid the COVID-19 pandemic after they beat Serbia on Thursday to reach Euro 2020.
Scotland ground out a 5-4 penalty shootout win at Red Star’s stadium with the match ending 1-1 after extra time, sending them to their first European Championship finals since 1996.
The Scots will join England, the Czech Republic and 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia in the 24-nation tournament’s Group D.
“It’s a very difficult time for Scotland because of the coronavirus pandemic and we spoke before the game about the chance to put a smile on their faces,” Clarke told a news conference.
“We know what we have achieved and what we had set out to achieve. Unbelievable, the character the players have shown. It would have been easy to crumble after conceding in the last minute of regular time from set play, but we dug in.
“We’ve been building towards this moment and tonight the players and the nation can be proud of themselves.”
Ryan Christie gave Scotland a 52nd-minute lead and the visitors missed several chances before Serbia substitute Luka Jovic headed an equaliser in the dying seconds of regular time.
Both sides wasted chances in extra time before Scotland keeper David Marshall saved Serbia’s final penalty in the shootout from Aleksandar Mitrovic to send his side through.
Marshall revealed the officials had told him to put his celebrations on hold as there was a VAR check for encroachment when Mitrovic took the penalty.
“Immediately after the save the referee said ‘don’t celebrate yet because there is a VAR check’,” he said.
“All you can do is pray because the lads were already celebrating. We deserved the win and we are delighted for all the fans and our families who couldn’t be here.” (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ed Osmond)
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