Scotland spare blushes with scrappy win over makeshift Czech Republic

Ryan Christie’s penalty spared Scottish blushes in an unconvincing 2-1 win over a Czech Republic side put together at 48 hours’ notice

For more than a quarter of this fixture, a placing in Scotland’s congested international hall of shame beckoned. The Czech Republic, having cobbled an entire team together at 48 hours’ notice after Covid-related issues, held a well-deserved advantage in Olomouc and the visitors were toiling badly. There was cause for the Czechs to wonder why on earth, in an apparent weekend panic, they tried to have the tie postponed.

A Lyndon Dykes goal, his first for Scotland, on his second appearance, preceded Ryan Christie earning his team respectability from the penalty spot. Yet there should not be, and will not be, any whooping and hollering after unconvincing success against a squad where only two players had sampled international football before.

After two matches and the Nations League’s resumption, there remain legitimate doubts about the Scots’ readiness for a Euro 2021 play-off against Israel in early October. Steve Clarke made five changes to his starting side following the draw against Israel on Friday but Scotland still lacked fluency and looked incredibly generous in defence. Alarm bells must ring.

Clarke does not care much for focus on systems but successive tries at a three-man backline cannot be considered as positive. A glorified Czech league select had Clarke fretting right until full-time, courtesy of a series of set pieces that had his side in occasional panic. The Czech players are due immense credit for their attitude, as they made a mockery of their heavy underdog status.

“It would have been a fairytale night for them,” Clarke told Sky Sports after the match. “We were always on a hiding to nothing … everyone said we had to come here and get the win and we got it.

“I knew when it all unfolded over the weekend that it was going to be a difficult game for us,” Clarke added. “The Czech Republic were going to play the game of their lives. For us, it was always going to be a difficult night but we got the win. When everybody puts you under so much pressure to get the win then that’s all you have to do.”

Craig Levein will be glad there is another, curious reference point for a Scotland trip to the Czech Republic. A decade has passed since he deployed a 4-6-0 formation for a game in Prague but Scottish fans and commentators have neither forgiven or forgotten. Every mention of that set-up triggers all manner of furious responses.

There was Tartan Army anger, again, within 11 minutes of this match. A woeful Scotland opening was punished by Jakub Pesek, a 27-year-old journeyman who marked his international debut in memorable fashion. Pesek smartly bent his run behind Scott McTominay, collected a pass from Stanislav Tecl and flicked past the advancing David Marshall.

Scotland now donned red faces alongside light blue shirts. As Marshall scrambled to claw away a long-range effort from Pesek, Clarke had cause to be grateful for the absence of a travelling support.

It took 24 minutes for the visitors to produce something vaguely resembling a coherent attack, Liam Palmer and Christie firing in consecutive crosses that had the defence flapping.

Palmer’s next ball, low and inviting from the right flank, was the cue Dykes needed to pounce for his maiden international goal. One of many baffling aspects of the opening period related to Scotland’s passiveness after Dykes hauled them back into proceedings.

Officialdom was soon to lend them a helping hand, as if they were worthy of another one. Tomas Malinsky clearly had a hold of the marauding Andy Robertson’s shirt, with the Liverpool full-back smart enough to wait until he was inside the penalty area before taking a tumble. The offence appeared to take place in free-kick territory. Christie, for the second time in two games, strode home to score, low to Ales Mandous’s left. Scotland’s tempered celebrations told their own story.

Marek Havlik’s shaving of the post with a free-kick emphasised the makeshift hosts were not of mind to accept their fate. Marshall saved brilliantly from Pesek, with Tecl stumbling over the ball when afforded glaring opportunity on the rebound.

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

Callum Paterson, on in place of the injured Dykes, should have settled Scottish nerves when sent through on goal but instead shanked his effort wide.

Even in victory, this rather summed up Scotland’s night. Marshall was Clarke’s best player. Quite what a full-strength Czech team would have done to Scotland is anyone’s guess.


Ewan Murray

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Scotland march on as Ryan Fraser strike sees off Czech Republic
Ryan Fraser’s early goal was enough to send Scotland four points clear at the top of their Nations League group

Ewan Murray at Hampden Park

14, Oct, 2020 @8:47 PM

Article image
Steve Clarke says Scotland focused on Czech trip amid 'cancellation' furore
Scotland’s manager, Steve Clarke, said his side never doubted the game in Czech Republic would go ahead on Monday despite the hosts trying to call it off

Ewan Murray

05, Sep, 2020 @9:30 PM

Article image
Schick’s halfway-line hit helps Czech Republic spoil Scotland’s party
Patrik Schick scored a fine header and from the halfway line to make Scotland pay for wasted opportunities at Hampden Park

Ewan Murray at Hampden Park

14, Jun, 2021 @2:52 PM

Article image
Clarke facing calls on key Scotland trio for crunch Republic of Ireland clash
Steve Clarke has said he is facing decisions on game time for key Scotland players including Kieran Tierney, Jack Hendry and Stuart Armstrong

Ewan Murray

23, Sep, 2022 @9:30 PM

Article image
James spares Ward’s blushes and earns Wales point in Czech Republic
Daniel James scored an equaliser to give Wales a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw in Prague after goalkeeper Danny Ward had gifted the Czech Republic the lead

Ben Fisher at Sinobo Stadium, Prague

08, Oct, 2021 @8:54 PM

Article image
Scotland 0-2 Czech Republic: Euro 2020 – as it happened
Minute-by-minute report: Patrik Schick’s sensational long-range goal knocked the stuffing out of Scotland. Scott Murray was watching.

Scott Murray

14, Jun, 2021 @3:30 PM

Article image
Ralston and McKenna ease Scotland to cathartic win over Armenia
Two first-half goals allowed Scotland to a 2-0 victory in Glasgow against a defence-minded opposition

Louise Taylor at Hampden Park

08, Jun, 2022 @8:53 PM

Article image
Lyndon Dykes double eases Scotland to Nations League win over Ukraine
Two goals from Lyndon Dykes and John McGinn’s opener earned a convincing 3-0 win for Scotland over Ukraine in the Nations League

Ewan Murray at Hampden Park

21, Sep, 2022 @8:55 PM

Article image
Depleted Scotland hold out against Ukraine for Nations League promotion
Craig Gordon made important saves and Ryan Porteous had an outstanding debut as Scotland drew 0-0 with Ukraine to reach Nations League A

Ewan Murray at Cracovia Stadium, Krakow

27, Sep, 2022 @8:58 PM

Article image
Scotland v Czech Republic – as it happened | Scott Murray

Minute-by-minute report: The Czechs hit back late with a controversial penalty to effectively put Euro 2012 beyond Scotland. Scott Murray was watching

Scott Murray

03, Sep, 2011 @1:10 PM