Scotland have opened their Nations League campaign with a 1-1 draw with Israel to deny them four consecutive wins for the first time since 2007 thanks to Ryan Christie’s first-half penalty.
Clarke’s side had fans guessing what the formation was going to be ahead of kick-off and the former Kilmarnock boss went with a back three of Scott McTominay, Scott McKenna and Kieran Tierney – although there were some signs that the players weren’t totally comfortable with it.
Despite there being few attacking opportunities of note in the opening 30 minutes, Scotland were in control of what was a dull game and dominated possession for long spells.
The midfield trio of Jack, McGinn and McGregor worked well together and controlled the tempo of the game but lacked that killer ball to penetrate the visitors’ defence and break the deadlock before the break.
Scotland survived a major scare just before the break when David Marshall was called into action for the first time and pulled off an excellent save from Dabbur to deny a goal-bound effort.
Just moments later, Scotland won a spot-kick when McGinn was brought down inside the box and Ryan Christie stepped up to slot it away and give the hosts the lead with a minute until the break.
The restart saw the game settle back into a similar pattern with Scotland controlling possession without any real killer instinct to go and grab the second goal.
Despite having a sustained spell of dominance around the hour mark, there was never a feeling that Scotland were going to extend their lead and kill the game off – although they seemed even less likely to concede.
As the time ticked away, it seemed inevitable that Clarke would turn to his substitute and try inject a little bit of life into the game and avoid being caught cold late on.
There were some signs that it could happen when a dangerous ball flashed across the face of Marshall’s goal from Eli Dasa but no Israel players could get a touch to turn it into the net and draw them level.
The equaliser came just a minute later when Zahavi gets an equaliser for the visitors. smashed a lovely finish beyond Marshall and spark the first change of the game as Dykes was replaced by Oli Burke.
Clarke went back to his bench a few minutes later to bring on Stuart Armstrong for John McGinn but it all seemed a bit ‘more-of-the-same’ for Scotland with only 10 minutes left.
Attention will now turn to Monday’s clash in Olomouc and what is a game Scotland really could do with winning to keep their hopes of topping the group alive.
Here’s how Steve Clarke’s side performed against Israel:
David Marshall – 6
Something of a surprise starter given the form of Jon McLaughlin and the Derby County new boy. In a game that took 35 minutes for either side to register a shot on target, Marshall was unsurprisingly quiet in the opening 45. Brilliant save from Dabbur just before the break to keep the scores level. Busier after the break and couldn’t do much with the equaliser.
Scott McTominay – 6
Deployed on the right of a back three, the Manchester United man looked fairly comfortable in defence alongside McKenna and Tierney in the opening 45 but started making mistakes as the game wore on. Might well have played himself out of the side to face the Czech Republic on Monday.
Andy Robertson – 6
The captain started in a more advanced role than normal to accommodate Tierney in the starting XI and it seemed to work fairly well as the pair rotated between positions. Sometimes found himself caught in two minds over what to do when the ball came to him though and something that maybe needs worked on a bit more with Robertson than Tierney.
Ryan Jack – 6
The Rangers linchpin anchored the midfield for Scotland and allowed the likes of McGregor and McGinn the freedom to get forward. Kept it simple in the middle of the park and regularly broke up Israel’s attacks. Didn’t influence the game in attack enough but had a decent enough night.
Scott McKenna – 6
Fairly comfortable night for the Aberdeen stopper as he filled the central slot in the back three on a pretty quiet evening for the defence. Needed to be at the top of his game with the defensively-inexperienced McTominay beside him.
Kieran Tierney – 7
First cap under Steve Clarke and the Arsenal defender looked good on the left of a back three. Tierney would often rotate with Andy Robertson going forward and it caused some real problems for the Israeli defence. Will be interesting to see if he starts against Czech’s on Monday given his recent injury problems.
James Forrest – 6
Picked up a booking ten minutes before the break. Fairly indifferent performance from the Celtic star in the opening 45 as he struggled to really influence the game and get in behind the Israel defence.
John McGinn – 7
Won a penalty just before half time which saw Scotland take the lead. Tried to break the lines regularly and played more as a number ten at times. The main creative outlet in Clarke’s side and one of the few players who seems to regularly carry his club form onto the international scene. Replaced by Armstrong with 12 minutes left.
Lyndon Dykes – 7
Scotland debut for the QPR striker and he worked hard and put in a decent first appearance for his country. Kept trying to drag defenders around and create gaps for others but team-mates weren’t always quick to take them. Replaced by Burke in the aftermath of Israel’s equaliser.
Callum McGregor – 6
Another who worked hard without any real rewards for his efforts. Lacked a killer pass at times but kept plugging away as Scotland looked to break down the visitors’ defence.
Ryan Christie – 6
Scored from the penalty spot to give Scotland the lead just before the break but has had much better games in dark blue. Drifted in and out of the game as Scotland lacked a creative spark but came up trumps when it was needed most.
Subs: Oli Burke (4) On for Dykes with just under 20 minutes to go. Stuart Armstrong (4) Given the last 12 minutes to take over from McGinn.