Lyndon Dykes strike gave his team the booty ahead of the visit to the Czech Republic, which plays in Glasgow on Wednesday night
Scotland’s progress under Steve Clarke extended to a seventh straight unbeaten game in more than a calendar year to beat Slovakia at Hampden Park with a strike from Lyndon Dykes to stay ahead of Group B2 League of Nations ahead of the Czech Republic, which plays in Glasgow on Wednesday night
The accepted formula for a successful qualifying campaign is to win home games and draw away, but with Scotland being Scotland they entered this competition at the top of Group B2 after flipping the equation with a draw against Israel in Hampden and a win on a makeshift side of the Czech Republic in Olomouc
Meanwhile, they came out on top in a penalty shootout in Thursday’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in yet another draw with Israel to take their place in the final against Serbia in Belgrade Under other circumstances, such progress, however nervous and hard-earned, would have guaranteed swelling support in the stands at Hampden, but the Tartan Army had to watch from home, even pubs closed due to Covid -19
The coronavirus had excluded Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie and Kieran Tierney from Scotland’s three home games in that series of games, while injuries represented Oli Burke, Liam Palmer and Scott McKenna, along with Ross McCrorie and Andy Considine of Aberdeen and Paul McGinn of Hibs called in to help fill in the gaps
Considine’s introduction to international football extended to his first cap in place of Liam Cooper in a team with three other changes, as Ryan Fraser, John Fleck and Kenny McLean replaced Callum McGregor, Ryan Jack and Oli McBurnie Slovakia, meanwhile, had made no less than nine changes, only Martin Valjent and Marek Hamsik keeping their places
Despite the magnitude of the disruption, the Slovaks contributed to a show that by halftime had put on more spectacle than the tedious two-hour Israeli blockade set In Scotland’s case, the impression was of a team unloaded with fear of losing and driven by Fraser’s energy and McGinn’s cunning, which created the best half chance for Lyndon Dykes, only for the QPR striker to be thwarted as he was brought down by a superb saving tackle from Branislav Ninaj
Slovakia tried to exploit the gap between Scott McTominay and Stephen O’Donnell on the right of the Scottish backline, but the growing understanding between the two effectively limited the threat Clarke’s only concern was that his players had reached the gap without any of their six attempts on goal.
The Slovaks came out early for the restart and signaled an immediate threat to resuming play, but Scotland responded most effectively 10 minutes after the break when Fraser bonded with O’Donnell for the full-back to escape opposing defenders for Dykes to hit a left-footed volley past Kuciak five yards
The goal animated Slovakia, whose response was to pin the Scots but at a risk that was shown when Dykes prepped Fraser for another chance that was closed by a frantic blockade Dykes’ run was almost over and he retired, with Fleck injured, with 20 minutes left It was, however, McBurnie who came excruciatingly close when he encountered a Fraser cross with a header Kuciak hit. at crossbar and above
Scotland (3-5-2): Marshall; McTominay, Gallagher, Considine; O’Donnell, Fraser (Paterson 85), Fleck (McGregor 71), J McGinn (Jack 88), Robertson; Dykes (McBurnie 71), McLeanSubs (unused): McLaughlin (g), Robbie McCrorie (g), Ross McCrorie, Porteous, Shankland, Taylor, Shankland, McGinn Reserved: Dykes, Fleck, Robertson, McBurnie
Slovakia (4-3-3): Kuciak; Holubek, Valjent, Gregus, Haraslin (Rusnak 75); Bozenik, Schranz (Mack 62), Ninaj; Hamsik (Kucka 62), Bero (Duda 21), KoscelnikSubs (not used): Rodak (g), Greif (g), Vavro, Gyomber, Safranko, Hrosovsky, Pauschek, Sabo Reserved: Hamsik, Haraslin
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Scottish national football team, UEFA Nations League, Steve Clarke, Slovak national football team
World news – GB – Scotland extend unbeaten seven and best Nations League group with a victory against Slovakia
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