Scots struggle but Czech out a victory
● Boss happy that strikers both score and hails defensive commitment at the death
Goal-scoring duo Lyndon Dykes and Ryan Christie celebrate as Scotland top their Nations League group after a nervy 2-1 victory over a second-string Czech Republic side in Olomouc last night
Steve Clarke hailed the vic - tory if not the performance as Scotland defeated a makeshift Czech Republic side in Olomouc.
The fear of losing to a team of mostly untried inter national footballers seemed to overly burden Scotland as they quickly slipped behind to a goal from Jakob Pesec. An equaliser from Lyndon Dykes shortly before the half hour mark and penalty from Ryan Christie seven minutes into the second half earned Scotland three points.
Clarke wanted to concentrate on the three points. The win stretched Scotland’s unbeaten run to five games dating back to November last year and put them top of Group B2.
“Let’s talk about the result first, when everyone puts you under pressure to win then that’s what you have to do,” Clarke said, with reference to the circumstances which saw Czech Republic forced to assemble an entirely new team at 48 hours’ notice due to positive Covid-19 tests .
“We obviously made it more difficult for ourselves by conceding the first goal but the
STEVE CLARKE “Five games unbeaten is a positive. The way we reacted tonight is a positive. Both strikers scored”
boys showed good character to come back and get back in front. It was always going to be a difficult night for us after what emerged over the weekend. It was the chance to be a fairytale for them. For us it was always going to be a difficult night and that’s how it turned out. But we got the win. It was a good reaction to adversity.”
Clarke again played a threeat-the -back system that was heavily scrutinised in Friday’s 1-1 draw with Israel. He dropped Kieran Tierney and brought in Leeds skipper Liam Cooper at left centre-half.
“I am not looking for vindication,” he said. “I wanted to have another look at the system and see other players playing in that system. I managed to do that tonight.”
Asked to put the two most recent results into the context of such a pivotal Euro 2020 semi-final play-off against Israel next month, he said: “Five games unbeaten is a positive. The way we reacted tonight is a positive.
“We showed resolution and character. Both strikers scored. So, there are positives to come out of it.”
Referee: S Gozubuyuk (Ned)
CZECH REPUBLIC 1
Dykes 27, Christie 52 pen
Scotland flirted with the disaster many had predicted for them before springing a surprise and earning an admittedly fraught victor y. They lived dangerously against aside who played like they knew they had nothing to lose.
It was a game they said Steve Clarke could simply not win.
And in a way he didn’t. He will know Scotland were again unimpressive. He will know next month’s Euro 2020 semifinal play-off v Israel seems an even more daunting proposition than it did a few days ago.
But he has every right to present four points earned from two opening Nations League fixtures as more than satisfactory, whatever the circumstances. Scotland are the perhaps unlikely leaders of Group B2.
This was a fixture almost designed to inflict maximum embarrassment on Scotland. For a spell, it seemed set to pan out this way. Jakub Pesec took just 11 minutes on his debut to score a maiden goal for his countr y. Stanislav Tecl, who turned 30 last week, created it. He was one of only two players in the opposition team with previous experience of football at full international level.
Roman Hubrik looked ever y one of his 36 years as he hirpled out of international retirement in a bid to augment his Scottish nemesis credentials. The defender, who last played for his countr y four years ago, scored the winner against Craig Levein’s striker-less visitors in 2010. This help ed condemn a S cottish team to public opprobrium at home.
Such a fate do es not await Clarke’s team. After all, they did all they could do. They beat the team in front of them thanks to Lyndon Dykes’ first goal for his country, which levelled the scores after 27 minutes, and Ryan Christie’s penalty six minutes into these con d-half. The hosts twice struck the post in the second period.
Clarke is nothing if not stubborn. Having been irked by those who queried why he had decided to road-test a new defensive formation against Israel on Friday, he risked further irritating these naysayers by dropping Kieran Tierney and yet retaining the system that was seemingly designed to accommodate him. Critics of this set-up were presented with more ammunition when Scotland were cut open early on.
Te cl’ sang led pass left Scott Mctominay flat-footed and caught right wing-back Liam Palmer too far up-field. Pesek took full advantage as he ran in behind and rammed the ball beyond David Marshall, pictured inset, and into the corner of the net after bringing the ball under control with his first touch. It was almost a relief to get something most feared would happen out of the way so early.
Rarely have Scotland been presented with more optimal circumstances in which to gain a rare away win over a higher-ranked country. The stadium was not a seething mass of partisan home fans. Indeed, there were no fans present full stop.
It was a wonder to discover the Czech Republic team had managed to get shirts, shorts
and socks to fit. A team including nine debutants set out with the wild abandon of aside thrown together at 48 hours’ notice. Giddy to have been given this surprise chance, they were shooting from everywhere.
That in itself was not prob - le ma tic for Scotland. Most attempts flew high and wide. One, from Te cl, was tipped wide by Marshall. Another long-range effort, from Adam Janos, brought out a superb save down low to his left from the Scotland goalkeeper, who managed to deflect the powerful shot wide shortly before half-time.
Scotland had already drawn level with Palmer, one of Scotland’s successes in the opening half aside from being slow to react at the opening goal, was instrumental in its cre - at ion. Palmer took the ball in with ease after a switch in play before setting himself up to launch an inviting cross into the six-yard box that stirred Dykes’ striking instincts. The Q PR player moved smartly into position and clipped the ball high into the net with 27 minutes played.
Relief should have flooded through the Scottish ranks. They should have been the ones to take the game to the hosts. But Czech Republic continued to look more dangerous in the time left before the interval and after it. Scotland did secure the opportunity to grant them some comfort. Andy Robertson was clipped by Tom as Malinsky on the edge of the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Christie converted his second penalty in four days, having struck the opener against Israel on Friday. He drove the ball low and hard into the bottom right corner of the net just in case auxiliary Czech Republic keeper Ales Mandous had been swotting up on his effort v Israel, when he opted for the top left corner.
This goal should have served to ease Scottish anxiety. Instead, it led to a spell when the visitors lost control again. Havlik hit the outside of Marshall’s right post from a free kick. A tired-looking Tecl should have steered in a shot rather than send an effort weakly past the post after the Scottish goalkeeper had saved well from Janos.
CZECH REPUBLIC: Mandous, Holes, Hubnik, Jemelka, Zeleny, Janos, Havlik (Rusek 81), Malinsky, Budinsky (Breite 55), Pesek (Potocny 76), Tecl. Subs not used: Juroska, Solil, Nguyen, Sip, Holzer, Karabec, Karafiat, Gabriel, Markovic.
SCOTLAND: Marshall, Mckenna, Cooper, Mctominay, Mclean, Palmer, Armstrong (Mcgregor 80), Fleck (Mcginn 71), Robertson, Dykes (Paterson 67), Christie. Subs not used: Jack, Burke, Gallagher, Tierney, Mclaughlin, Forrest, Mccrorie, O’donnell, Taylor.