Scotland 1-0 Czech Republic: Ryan Fraser scores early to give Steve Clarke’s men narrow victory as they stay top of their Nations League group
- Scotland beat the Czech Republic 1-0 to stay top of their Nations League group
- Ryan Fraser gave the hosts an early lead with a cool finish in the sixth minute
- John McGinn made a goal saving block to deny an equaliser in the second half
- West Ham’s Thomas Soucek missed a great chance to level for the away side
To say Scotland are becoming the Kilmarnock of international football doesn’t have to be an insult.
As manager at Rugby Park Steve Clarke took a relegation threatened team and turned them into the great, hard to beat overachievers of the SPFL. They secured third in the SPFL. They made it to Europe. On current evidence he’s repeating the trick on the international stage.
Heading to Serbia for a Euro 2020 play-off final in Serbia next month Scotland are timing their run nicely. Suddenly the thought of reaching a major international finals for the first time since France 98 no longer feels fanciful.
Scotland beat the Czech Republic 1-0 on Wednesday to stay top of their Nations League group
Ryan Fraser put the hosts ahead after latching on to a through ball from Lyndon Dykes
The last time any Scotland team went eight games unbeaten was back in 1987-88. Slotting in at left-back for five of those games was one S Clarke Esquire.
In matching that 32-year record in the last week much of the praise has come with a caveat. The eight matches included two wins against Israel, a cakewalk against San Marino and a victory in Olomouc against a second string Czech side decimated by coronavirus
Yet the asterisk was removed here by a battling, backs-to-the-wall win over a crisp, slick full-strength Czech team at Hampden.
Make no mistake, the team in dark blue rode their luck at times. The second half so one-sided they should have played it at Little Bighorn.
Scotland rode their luck at times but put in a battling performance at Hampden Park
Fraser’s goal was their only shot on target while the Czech Republic dominated possession
In a running theme these days they only managed one shot on target. Yet when Ryan Fraser claimed his second goal for his country after six minutes it was all they needed. Again.
In the midst of those eight games they’ve now lost just four goals. They were aided and abetted, it must be said by some hideous Czech finishing allied to more heroic defending.
The first half was as good a display as Scotland had mustered in years. Fraser and Lyndon Dykes forged a strike partnership of great promise, playing with vim and energy on the counter attack. Once again, meanwhile, Scott McTominay, Declan Gallagher and Andrew Considine adopted a policy of thou shalt not pass.
In the last few days plenty have legitimately questioned the value of the Nations League in the midst of a world pandemic. Yet with the Scots now four clear of the Czechs at the top of Group B2, however, another play-off place for the Qatar World Cup now seems tantalisingly possible. For Clarke and his players the Nations League is becoming a godsend.
The matchwinning goals came after six minutes and offered the coherent evidence of a genuine strike partnership taking shape.
Stephen O’Donnell’s high pressing nicked the Ball off Lukas Provod, feeding Lyndon Dykes.
The QPR striker rode a heavy tackle from Ondrej Kudela and with the German referee willing to let the game flow, recovered his poise to nick the ball through for Ryan Fraser. The Newcastle winger calmly slotted the ball under Tomas Vaclik for 1-0 and his second international goal.
The visitors could have levelled twice in the first half with Matej Vydra missing both chances
David Marshall made an important late save to ensure Scotland kept another clean sheet
Scotland (3-4-1-2): Marshall; O’Donnell; McTominay; Gallagher; McGinn (Paterson 79); Jack; Dykes (McBurnie 65); McGregor; Fraser (McLean 70); Taylor (Hanlon 79); Considine
Subs not used: McLaughlin; Hanlon; Robby McCrorie; Ross McCrorie; Porteous; P McGinn
Scorers: Fraser (6)
Czech Republic (4-2-3-1): Vaclik; Djimsiti; Kudela; Celustka (Hovorka 20); Boril; Soucek; Kral (Kaderabek 77); Masopust (Poznar 66); Darida; Provod (Sevcik 65); Vydra (Rabusic 77)
Subs not used: Petrasek; Koubek;Novak; Nguyen; Mateju; Sacek; Malinsky;
Suddenly Clarke’s team had a decent platform for a Czech double. A 2-1 win in Olomouc had come against a covid-blighted second string. The physical, imposing team brought to Glasgow by assistant Jiri Chytry was full-strength and the slickness of their movement and passing showed it.
The Czechs will wonder how they failed to score in the first half. They had chances and both fell for Burnley striker Matej Vydra.
The first was a hanging header clutched gratefully by David Marshall. The second was a pretty awful miss from six yards.
Coufal’s probing deflected cross towards the back post was an open invitation to equalise.
Had he hit the target it was a goal. As the forward thrashed the ball past the base of the post his disbelief was echoed around the country.
Scotland, then, survived a scare or two. But they were never second best.
A hard-pressing, quick, sharp counter attacking game might even have brought a second goal before half-time as Fraser and Dykes showed signs of a very decent understanding.
In for the suspended captain Andrew Robertson, Celtic’s Greg Taylor broke up a Czech attack in Scotland’s half, feeding John McGinn in space. The stand-in captain is emerging as a key link man between midfield and attack, finding Fraser on the edge of the area – a curling shot fizzing past the outside of the post.
The Newcastle winger had a better chance still when a crunching tackle from Gallagher in his own half again set up another opportunity for McGinn to launch a swift counter. A brilliantly weighted pass gave Fraser the space to run at goal and lash the ball over the bar from 18 yards. He should have hit the target.
Fraser’s pace and running gave the visitors no peace and offered Scotland a whole new dimension to their play.Before half-time in behind again, the second bite of the cherry from a cut-back so nearly teeing up Dykes for a second.
Half-time arrived, then, to a new and unfamiliar feeling. Watching Scotland had been something close to enjoyable.
Against a team of a calibre of the Czechs the night was never likely to pass without mishap. The visitors came out for the second half like a team possessed.
Had Vydra pitched up in Glasgow with his shooting boots the game might have felt very different indeed.
The number ten’s decision to go for a shot from an acute angle drew the ire of teammates when the best Czech move of the night after 49 minutes ended in another opportunity being passed up.
For Scotland the opening stages of the second half were a fraught business. A seat of the pants affair.
A corner picked out the aerial prowess of Tomas Soucek, a firm header saved unconventionally by Marshall.
The hosts spent much of the second half camped in their own area as the visitors attacked
Oli McBurnie came close to making it 2-0 as he hit the bar for the second game in a row
Penned in their own half Scotland couldn’t get out. The counter attacking threat of the first half had been replaced by an approach to defending General Custer might have thought excessive. Yet, as the hour passed, they remained a goal to the good. Despite it all they were once again proving a tough nut to crack.
After another promising international display Dykes made way for Oli McBurnie with a little under half an hour to play. Fraser made way for Kenny McLean shortly afterwards, receiving ice for a swollen arm injury as he left the pitch.
The introduction of another midfielder felt like Steve Clarke putting down sandbags as the water lapped the steps. Scotland were clinging on by the fingertips.
The failure of Soucek to level it with eight minutes to play was mildly staggering. As a Coufal cross received a flick on into a crowded six yard box it looked easier to score. Somehow the West Ham midfielder sclaffed an awful miss over the bar for one of the misses of the season. For Scotland it was a monumental let-off they almost made the most of
Oli McBurnie must wonder what he has to do to score for Scotland. The £20million man struck woodwork on his debut in Mexico and did the same in the 1-0 win over Slovakia. Here he almost broke his duck in outstanding fashion when a curling strike from 20 yards careered off the crossbar.
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