Turkey 2 Scotland 1 Steve Clarke

THIS WAS Turkeys first-ever game in Diyarbakir.

But for an hour it was just dire for Scotland.

Steve Clarkehad spoken in the build-up to the match of his desire to go into Marchs opening Euro 2024 qualifiers on the back of a five-game unbeaten run.

But for too long Scotland looked stodgy and sluggish against a bright Turkish team who swept into a 2-0 lead.

Ozan Kabak who had earlier hit the bar headed them in front then Cengiz Under slotted in the second shortly after half-time.

John McGinnspowerhouse drive Scotlands only shot on target gave the 500 travelling Tartan Army fans something to celebrate.

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But in the end that damaging opening 60 minutes cost Scotland dear and they ended the year with a defeat in distant eastern Turkey.

The Diyarbakir Stadium is home to a local Third Division outfit and the standard of its facilities and surface reflected that. A day of heavy rain had made the central area of the pitch a bit of a quagmire.

Such was the pounding the surface took during the pre-game warm-up, it had to be re-lined before the teams emerged for kick-off.

Steve Clarke resisted the temptation to field either new call-up Calvin Ramsay oron-form Lewis Ferguson, with the two ex-Dons having to settle for a place on the bench.

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Ryan Porteous, despite his fine debut against Ukraine in September, also remained on the bench all night one of seven changes from the side that started the Nations League decider in Krakow.

The Turks had plenty of experience in their ranks, with players from the likes ofInter Milan, Roma, Valencia and Leicester.

There had been pre-match suggestions that there would be little support for the home side from a crowd which views itself as Kurdish rather than Turkish but the cacophony of whistles that greeted every Scot in possession underlined the atmosphere would be as hostile as Steve Clarke had suggested.

His side lined up with three at the back, withNewcastlesRyan Fraser in the right wing-back role. BrightonsBilly Gilmourmade his first Scotland start since the win in Armenia in June.

However the Scots made little impression in the early stages.

Home skipper Hakan Calhanoglus early drive was touched round the post for a Turkish corner, which emboldened the home side.

Frasers poor pass was seized on by Orkun Kokcu and from his pass, Unders drive was deflected for a corner by Robertson. From the kick, Kabak headed against the bar with Gordon beaten.

Scotlands only incisive moment in the early stages came when Stuart Armstrongs cross looked tempting but Lyndon Dykes was unable to connect in front of goal.

The visitors were indebted to Gordon winning his 74thcap when Fraser allowed Kabaks long ball to go over his head. Sub Eren Elmali was in on goal butGordonsaved his drive with his legs.

Although McGinn sent a left-foot drive whistling wide of the post, the pressure on the Scottish defence was building and it paid off when Turkey went ahead five minutes before the break.

The Scots conceded a free-kick 40 yards out and when Calhanoglus kick came over, Hoffenheim central defender Kabak got in ahead ofGrant Hanleyto power a header into the corner of Gordons net.

It was a poor goal to lose but one that was an accurate reflection on a first-half Scotland performance that had been hesitant and unimaginative.

And it couldve been worse for Scotland. A minute before the break more slack defensive play allowed Under room to line up a left-foot drive which fortunately for Scotland went narrowly wide.

There was a further let-off when the home side claimedJack Hendryhad wrestled Cenk Tosun to the ground going for a cross. The Turks wanted a penalty but the Kosovan referee Visar Kastrati did not think it worthy of a VAR check.

Clarke made two changes at the break, both in defence. Fraser had looked uncomfortable in his defensive duties and was replaced by debutantCalvin Ramsay, while Scott McKenna took over from Hanley.

But the new arrivals barely had time to bed in before Scotland were two behind. McGinns tackle in midfield created an opportunity for Armstrong, but he dithered on the edge of the Turkish box and was dispossessed.

Home defender Zeki Celik swept the ball up to Under, who advanced on McKenna and cleverly stroked the ball through the defenders legs into the unsighted Gordons net.

Scotland threatened to unravel. Cenk Tosun had a chance to make it 3-0 when he turned inside McKenna but his shot for goal went wide.

And the visitors were relieved that Under miskicked from a good position after Irfan Kahveci had robbed Ramsay.

However Scotland pulled one back with their first effort on target after 64 minutes. Robertson fed McGinn, who galloped away from Caglar Soyuncus attempts to foul him and smacked a low drive past Ugurcan Cakir for his 15thinternational goal.

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Suddenly Scotland withRyan JackandRyan Christieon looked the more dominant side.

But even though Stokes Jacob Brown and Ferguson got brief run-outs and Christie fired over the bar late on, Scotland were unable to salvage a draw in a match unlikely to remain in anyones memory for long.

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