Scotland survived an early scare in Olomouc to come back and win 2-1 against the Czech Republic and go top of Nations League B2 thanks to goals from Lyndon Dykes and Ryan Christie.

The result means that Steve Clarke’s side have taken four points from six and, with Israel drawing at home to Slovakia, they’ll top the group.

Despite that, Clarke must surely be concerned with how poor the overall performance was against a side pulled together at the last minute.

Scotland v Czech Republic XI

Clarke made five changes from the draw with Israel at Hampden as he used his squad and tried to give opportunities to some of the players on the fringes of the starting XI.

Scotland had lost all six previous qualifiers away to the Czech Republic (or Czechoslovakia) and the drastically weakened home side provided a fantastic opportunity for Clarke’s side to end that run and take three points back to Scotland ahead of next month’s playoff clash with Israel.

There were nine debutants in the Czech starting XI after the Coronavirus outbreak which threatened the game taking place before UEFA stepped in over the weekend.

It went ahead though and Scotland were immediately aware that they were in a game as the hosts hounded them and made life difficult for Clarke’s team as they tried to get control of the ball.

Stand-in Czech boss David Holoubek was barking orders on the sidelines as his makeshift side looked to exploit any mistakes and it was the hosts who had the first corner of the game – although it would ultimately come to nothing.

The unthinkable happened just 11 minutes in as the hosts took the lead through Jakub Pešek after some really poor defending by Scotland.

Kenny McLean’s slack pass gifted possession to the Czechs and Tecl slid the ball through the static Scottish defence for the Liberec midfielder to beat David Marshall after a perfectly-timed run.

Steve Clarke’s side looked shellshocked and it took a brilliant save from Marshall to keep it at 1-0 a few minutes after the goal, stretching to keep out Pešek.

After seeming to get their wits back about them a bit, Scotland started to show a bit more attacking intent, particularly down the left, but struggled to make the home goalkeeper work or get the Czech defence turned around.

There was plenty of opportunities for them to do exactly that though and when Clarke’s side did expose the obvious flaws, they looked the much better side.

Czech keeper Mandous was finally forced into action 23 minutes in, pulling off two good saves from Palmer and then Christie as Scotland push forward in search of an equaliser before the break.

The pressure paid off five minutes later when Dykes made his first real contribution as a Scotland player and grabbed his first goal for his country by getting on the end of Palmer’s cross.

 

The Sheffield Wednesday’s cross deserved a finish at the end of it and Dykes obliged with a point-blank finish to ease the nerves on the Scotland bench.

With the opening 45 drawing to a close, the home side continued to look for opportunities to shoot at goal, with Marshall facing several long-range strikes before Dutch referee Serdar Gözübüyük brought the first half to an end and gave Clarke a chance to re-assess his gameplan.

Clarke resisted the opportunity to make changes at the break and they almost took the lead five minutes after the restart when Robertson picked out Christie with an excellent cutback but the Celtic man’s strike was charged down.

Just a minute later, there was a controversial decision as the referee pointed to the spot for when Robertson went down under minimal contact and Christie stepped up for the second time in two games to score from 12 yards.

The goal didn’t seem to discourage the makeshift Czech side, continuing to work hard looking for an equaliser, and there was a real chance for the Czech’s to draw themselves level after an hour when Scott McTominay gifted them a silly free-kick right on the edge of the area.

Havlík’s effort shaved the edge of Marshall’s far post with the keeper beaten and it was a narrow escape for Scotland with their lead hanging in the balance.

Scotland were forced into a change after 67 minutes when the hard-working Dykes was forced off with what looked like a back injury.

The QPR striker has put in two impressive performances over the international break and looks to have a real shot at being Scotland’s regular number 9.

The home side really should have drawn themselves level just moments after the change, with Marshall forced into another good stop and somehow Stecl scuffed the rebound wide with the goal at his mercy.

Scotland were looking on the ropes and an equaliser seemed inevitable with 20 minutes left before Clarke once again turned to his bench, bringing John McGinn on in place of Fleck.

Anyone watching the game would have struggled to tell which side was the proper national team and which one was the hastily thrown together XI as Scotland somehow continued to make things look much harder than they needed to be.

Despite what appeared to be their best attempts to blow their lead, Scotland held on to the win and will now look ahead to next month’s fixtures and how they can improve. Quickly.

Scotland: Marshall (GK), McTominay, Robertson (c), McKenna, Dykes (Paterson 67′), Christie, Fleck, Cooper, Armstrong (McGregor 80), McLean, Palmer.

Subs: McLaughlin (GK), McCrorie (GK), Jack, Tierney, Forrest, McGinn, Gallagher, Burke, O’Donnell, Taylor.

Goals: Dykes 28′, Christie 50′ (p),

Have something to tell us about this article?