ALEX McLEISH last night insisted he had been heartened by aspects of Scotland’s performance in their 3-1 defeat to European champions Portugal at Hampden.

And he expressed confidence the national team can recover from the sixth loss of his second reign as manager in their Nations League matches against Albania away and Israel at home next month.

The 59-year-old was under pressure following his team's poor display in the 2-1 reverse to Israel in Haifa in their second League C Group 1 match on Thursday evening.

However, goals from Helder Costa, Eder and Bruma gave the visitors, who were missing Cristiano Ronaldo and their other big name players, a comfortable triumph.

But McLeish, who has introduced several youngsters to international football since being appointed back in February, revealed he had been encouraged by much of Scotland’s play.

“We were compact we played some good football going forward,” he said. “There wasn’t really an element of taking risks, but I think we passed the ball well between the Portuguese at times.

“We had one or two sniffs around the goals without being tremendously dangerous. There was a lot for me to take out of the game. After that horrible result (against Israel) it was a wee bit of a lift.”

McLeish has been savaged by supporters and pundits since the Israel loss and he knows that defeat to Albania in Shkoder will lead to calls for him to be sacked.

But the former Motherwell, Hibernian, Rangers, Birmingham City and Aston Villa manager is determined to silence his critics and secure the Euro 2020 play-off place up for grabs in the Nations League.

“Every time you lose a game you know there is going to be criticism, you have to take it on the chin and bounce back,” he said. “It’s about resilience.

“I’ve had a few knocks in the past and also a lot of success. It’s never easy to lose and of course that was a tough weekend, but I have to stand up and be brave and take that and take it forward.

“There are others examples of managers being under the cosh in recent time, Michael O’Neill (of Northern Ireland) and Stanislav Cherchesov in the Russian camp and they persevered and came through it. I’ll always have that determination.”

McLeish added: “Obviously I’m aware of it (the criticism). I guess it determines next month, we’ll see. We look to try and qualify, we’ll do everything we can to do that next month.

“We’re in that group with Israel and Albania for a reason. It’s because of the rankings. I look at them as cup finals. We want to win the two of them. We look for everyone to be on their A game when it comes to those two games.”

McLeish changed from a 3-4-3 formation to a 4-2-3-1 set-up and admitted he would think long and hard about how to approach the Albania and Israel games in the coming weeks.

“I know every system there is to know,” he said. “I’ve coached teams before with three at the back it’s been quite fashionable recently.

We want to adapt to different formations. It’s about getting the right balance. For the Albania game (at Hampden last month) it (three at the back) really worked.

“I am not making any decision at this peculiar moment, with two games next month we will have long and hard chats about that. We will try to get information that will beat the opposition and play with a lot more urgency against Albania.”

McLeish played down talk of a fallout with Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths – who asked not to be considered for the Israel and Portugal double header because he wanted to focus on getting fit – and stressed he could be involved against Albania and Israel if he gets back to his best at club level.

“I had a chat with Leigh last week and he said that physically he had to get better,” he said. “That’s an individual choice.

“I admire him for that because he wants to get to a level of fitness when he can blow Brendan Rodgers away and blew the nation away and hopefully fire the goals to get him to where he wants to be fitness-wise.

“I want anyone back in the squad who can score a lot of goals and be a real threat and give me options.”