Scotland manager Gordon Strachan felt Christophe Berra’s late winner against Northern Ireland was a major boost ahead of their latest European Championship qualifier against Gibraltar. Press Association Scotland dominated the Hampden friendly but were frustrated by Hamilton goalkeeper Michael McGovern until half-time substitute Berra headed home debutant Matt Ritchie’s corner in the 85th minute. Neither Craig Gordon nor Allan McGregor had a save to make in the Scotland goal and Strachan was delighted with the 1-0 win ahead of the visit of Gibraltar on Sunday. But he claimed the goal only came about because he had to utilise his fringe players. “I think there were more positives than negatives,” said O’Neill, whose team host Finland in a qualifier on Sunday. “The first half it took us about 15 minutes to settle in and when we did have good possession it didn’t really come to much, it petered out. We didn’t get enough good balls or bodies in the box. “But from a positive point of view we left a lot first-choice players out. There were seven or eight players on the bench that could start on Sunday. “It was very positive to get Jonny Evans and Aaron Hughes on the pitch together because they have not had much football with their clubs recently. “And we basically end up with three under-21 players on the pitch in Paddy McNair, Ryan McLaughlin and Luke McCullough. They are just young boys in the infancy of their club careers. “It possibly shows where we are at the moment. There is a lot more depth to the Scotland squad, but it was great for those lads to get an opportunity to play in this sort of game. “I thought Stuart Dallas did very well and overall I’m pleased with everyone who played.” O’Neill added: “It was obviously disappointing to lose a goal, but when you make so many substitutions it makes set-pieces more difficult, because you are continually changing markers. I brought off players with bigger physical stature and in normal games I would have taken that into consideration.” “I thought it was important to win, really important,” he said. “Just to make us feel good about ourselves. The performance at times was good as well, comfortable, brave on the ball, patient at times, getting used to the new pitch as well, it’s a bit slick. “It was really good to win and get a clean sheet because Northern Ireland have improved immensely over the past year, beating Hungary and Greece, and the Faroes.” The impressive Ikechi Anya had a number of efforts in the first half and also set up Steven Fletcher while Steven Naismith was a threat in the second period. Strachan said: “I was really pleased with the way we started the game and the intensity we passed the ball with, and pleased with the number of chances we made and the way we made them. “Then it kind of lulled in the last 15 minutes of the first half into a kind of friendly atmosphere. It kicked on again after half-time and died off again and came on again in the last 15 minutes. “I’m pleased with the amount of chances we made and delighted with the number of chances they didn’t get. “They make it very hard, and the difference in this game is if you score early. But we kept plugging away and kept trying to do the right things. There were one or two things I would like do better but to win the game and get a clean sheet was good.” Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill admitted Scotland had more depth to their squad after he gave a number of players their debuts and second caps.
TRADE RUMORS: Which teams could target Kevin Love?Leonard went on to score 23 points, adding six assists and five rebounds as the Clippers won, 112-92, to move to 19-7, while the defending champion Raptors dropped to 16-8.Rivers praised the Raptors for how they received Leonard and was certain the often-reserved NBA Finals MVP had been touched by the occasion.”It’s like Maximus coming back as the gladiator,” Rivers said just before tipoff. “He was the champion and just did everything honorably and the right way. I was joking earlier that would be a great intro.”After the victory, Rivers added: “Some players just don’t let you in. But I can tell you that ovation, to him, was very heartfelt. There’s no doubt about that. It meant a lot to him.”I thought what the Raptors did overall — the video, the players coming out, all of them who played with him — that’s the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been in the league. That’s a really classy move by the organization and then by the fans as well.”The Klaw x The North pic.twitter.com/aZzzwl8g46— NBA (@NBA) December 12, 2019Kyle Lowry presented Leonard’s ring and the two players shared a moment admiring the memento that contains over 640 diamonds.”I was joking with him and just showing him that the ring was nice and like it was shining too bright — we were laughing,” Leonard said, according to ESPN. “Memories probably just ran through our heads. As far as winning a championship, it pretty much has come full circle now, being able to get the ring and see where the hard work came from.”But it’s more than that. It’s just a journey. For me, as far as playing for the city, the chapter coming closed once I came over with the Clippers, but I still love the city. Those guys on the team, the players, the coaching staff, I still have love for them and wish them the best.” Asked about the video tribute and fans’ reaction when he received his ring, Leonard said: “It was great, it was a great moment. They did a great job putting it together, having all the players out there that won with me, standing there and presenting the ring. It just kind of puts you back in those spots when you were on the floor, or the locker room talk going into the game, and after the game watching those highlights.”It was a special season for us, for me and for the whole city and country. I’m just glad we were able to win. It was a blessing.”The Clippers lost Patrick Beverley to a concussion, while Pascal Siakam had a game-high 24 points for the Raptors, who have now lost four of their last five games.Title teammates foreverKawhi x Kyle in #PhantomCam pic.twitter.com/zxDfvqUge3— NBA (@NBA) December 12, 2019 Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was described as “Maximus coming back as the gladiator” by coach Doc Rivers as he made a triumphant return to Toronto on Wednesday.Leonard received his championship ring in his first game back in Toronto since opting to join the Clippers in free agency after he had inspired the Canadian franchise to its first NBA title. The Raptors welcomed him back with a tribute video, and he was greeted by former teammates and coaches in the center of the court, receiving a positive reception from the home crowd.