The Scotsman

Scots struggle but Czech out a vic­tory

● Boss happy that strik­ers both score and hails de­fen­sive com­mit­ment at the death

- By ALAN PAT­TULLO Sports · Soccer · Scotland · Steve Clarke · Israel · Kieran Tierney · Christie's · Chile · Morocco · Puerto Rico · Andrew Robertson · Czech Republic · Olomouc

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

Pe­sek 11

SCOT­LAND 2

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.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? 0 Lyn­don Dykes cel­e­brates scor­ing the equaliser – his first goal for Scot­land – against Czech Repub­lic in the Uefa Na­tions League at the An­druv Sta­dium in Olo­mouc.
0 Lyn­don Dykes cel­e­brates scor­ing the equaliser – his first goal for Scot­land – against Czech Repub­lic in the Uefa Na­tions League at the An­druv Sta­dium in Olo­mouc.
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 ??  ?? 2 Lyn­don Dykes sweeps home Scot­land’s equaliser from close range for his first in­ter­na­tional goal.
2 Lyn­don Dykes sweeps home Scot­land’s equaliser from close range for his first in­ter­na­tional goal.
 ??  ?? 0 Ryan Christie con­verts his sec­ond-half penalty, which proved to be the win­ning goal in Olo­mouc.
0 Ryan Christie con­verts his sec­ond-half penalty, which proved to be the win­ning goal in Olo­mouc.
 ??  ?? 1 Jakub Pe­sek stunned the vis­i­tors when he fin­ished off a fine Czech Repub­lic move on 11 min­utes.
1 Jakub Pe­sek stunned the vis­i­tors when he fin­ished off a fine Czech Repub­lic move on 11 min­utes.

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