After a 2-0 defeat at runaway Group F leaders Denmark and a narrow 1-0 win over Moldova at Hampden Park, it was taken as read that the Scots needed at least one point in Vienna to stay in the hunt with their opponents and Israel for a play-off spot.
However, striker Lyndon Dykes scored a VAR-awarded penalty in the 29th minute – his second goal in two games after his winner against Moldova at the weekend – to secure three crucial points which took Scotland into second, a point ahead of Israel who lost 5-0 against the Danes and visit Hampden next month.
Clarke said: “It was no surprise to me. They are a really good group of players who want to be successful for their country and they showed that tonight. So it was good.
“It just means it is another cup final (against Israel). You have to keep picking up points.
“It was an important night for us to get something from the game.
“We managed to come here and put in a good performance, a good footballing performance. When we got the ball down we passed it well.
“We are not a long ball team as some people try to label us. We can play. If we have to go long we can play and fight for it.
“If we have to make the passes we make the passes. We deserve a little bit more respect.”
Clarke’s squad was decimated by injuries and coronavirus issues for the trip to Denmark last week and he believes Israel’s thrashing in Copenhagen puts his side’s defeat against the Euro 2020 semi-finalists into perspective.
The former West Brom and Kilmarnock boss said: “We had the most difficult week, really difficult.
“We went to Denmark which is a tough place to go to start with, we had a lot of injuries and problems.
“We went down 2-0 early in the game, we dug in and got criticised for that actually. Israel went there tonight and lost 5-0.
“Then on the back of that we knew we had to gets something out of the next two games and we have come away with six points.
“If I had said to you (media) that we would have come away with six points you would have all been delighted so it was a pleasing night for us, I am really pleased for the players.”