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Slovakia 1-0 Scotland: Steve Clark’s side lose nine-game unbeaten run in Nations League

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Jan Gregus’ shot took a deflection past Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon

Scotland failed to turn dominance into goals as their nine-game unbeaten run ended in Slovakia.

Steve Clarke rested eight of the side that beat Serbia in the Euro 2020 play-off final on Thursday, as the Scots attempted to go 10 without defeat for the first time since 1924.

But Jan Gregus’ deflected first-half drive prevented them sealing Nations League promotion with a game to spare.

Despite that, Scotland stay four points clear in Group B2 with a game to play.

And, should the Czech Republic fail to beat Israel later on Sunday, Clarke’s side would win the section before their trip to face the Israelis on Wednesday.

This was always going to be about who best balanced the need to freshen up sides suffering emotional and physical exhaustion following 120 minutes on Thursday, with the desire to tap into the elation of progress to the Euro 2020 finals.

While Slovakia caretaker head coach Stefan Tarkovic went with a degree of continuity, making only four changes, Clarke retained only Kieran Tierney, John McGinn and Ryan Christie.

It looked like the home strategy might pay off best as Michal Duris gave recalled goalkeeper Craig Gordon an early test from range.

The danger seemed to awaken the Scots’ dormant dancing feet after their raucous celebrations and suddenly Clarke’s side were on top, only to fail to score after creating a series of chances.

Table

With Lyndon Dykes suspended, the much-criticised Oli McBurnie had the opportunity to rebut his doubters. But, while the Sheffield United striker showed plenty of endeavour, one chance eluded him after a heavy touch and a header was straight at goalkeeper Marek Rodak.

McBurnie was not the only culprit; Christie, Stuart Armstrong and Liam Palmer all also failed to find the target from promising positions.

Slovakia made the most of their only other first-half opening as Minnesota United midfielder Gregus left Gordon flat-footed with a low 18-yard drive that took a deflection off Kenny McLean.

McLean came close to restoring parity with a header that was pushed away by Rodak as the Slovaks defended in a manner you would expect from a side who knew defeat would relegate them.

Leigh Griffiths was inches from adding more late drama to Scotland’s story, but the substitute striker’s thumping effort was touched wide by Rodak with the final kick off the ball as Slovakia secured their first group win.

Man of the match – Kieran Tierney

Scotland's Kieran Tierney is fouled
Kieran Tierney (right) delivered a number of superb crosses back in his left-back role and was given some harsh treatment from Slovakia

What did we learn?

Scotland can rightfully point to another promising performance, albeit against a side who have been in doldrums until their Euro 2020 play-off final win in Northern Ireland.

Clarke will also take heart from a display from a second-string line-up that suggests he has a degree of strength in depth. However, problems continue in finding a cutting edge up front, especially finding a deputy to Lyndon Dykes.

Tierney’s attacking threat in his more familiar role will reignite the debate about who is best at left-back between the Arsenal man and captain Andy Robertson. Meanwhile, Andrew Considine again did himself proud despite being asked to play in an unfamiliar position on the right of the back three.

Match stats

  • This is just the second time Scotland have a Nations League match (previously P8 W6 D1 L1) and the first time they have failed to score.
  • This was Scotland’s first defeat since October 2019 against Russia.
  • Each of the last three matches between these sides have finished 1-0.
  • Goalkeeper Craig Gordon has gone five matches without a clean sheet for Scotland.
  • Slovakia last won a home game against Azerbaijan in November 2019.

What’s next?

Scotland head to Israel on Wednesday (19:45 GMT) aiming to win the group and promotion to League A. Slovakia head to Prague needing a win to avoid relegation and could do the Scots a favour against their Czech neighbours.

Player of the match

TierneyKieran Tierney

Slovakia

  1. Squad number1Player nameRodák

  2. Squad number6Player nameGregus

  3. Squad number17Player nameHamsik

  4. Squad number14Player nameSkriniar

  5. Squad number19Player nameKucka

  6. Squad number8Player nameDuda

  7. Squad number10Player nameRusnák

  8. Squad number13Player nameHrosovsky

  9. Squad number9Player nameMazán

  10. Squad number21Player nameDuris

  11. Squad number16Player nameSatka

  12. Squad number2Player namePekarík

  13. Squad number22Player nameLobotka

  14. Squad number18Player nameSafranko

Scotland

  1. Squad number6Player nameTierney

  2. Squad number11Player nameChristie

  3. Squad number17Player nameArmstrong

  4. Squad number7Player nameMcGinn

  5. Squad number23Player nameConsidine

  6. Squad number16Player nameCooper

  7. Squad number14Player nameMcLean

  8. Squad number15Player nameMcKenna

  9. Squad number21Player nameGordon

  10. Squad number20Player nameGriffiths

  11. Squad number22Player namePalmer

  12. Squad number9Player nameShankland

  13. Squad number19Player nameMcBurnie

Line-ups

Slovakia

  • 1Rodák
  • 2PekaríkBooked at 56mins
  • 16Satka
  • 14SkriniarBooked at 58mins
  • 9MazánBooked at 77mins
  • 13Hrosovsky
  • 19KuckaBooked at 44minsSubstituted forLobotkaat 61′minutes
  • 8DudaBooked at 65mins
  • 17HamsikSubstituted forRusnákat 68′minutesBooked at 88mins
  • 6Gregus
  • 21DurisSubstituted forSafrankoat 90+4′minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Pauschek
  • 4Valjent
  • 5Gyömbér
  • 7Suslov
  • 10Rusnák
  • 11Mráz
  • 12Jakubech
  • 15Schranz
  • 18Safranko
  • 20Mak
  • 22Lobotka
  • 23Greif

Scotland

  • 21Gordon
  • 23ConsidineSubstituted forGriffithsat 68′minutes
  • 15McKenna
  • 16Cooper
  • 22Palmer
  • 7McGinnBooked at 41mins
  • 14McLean
  • 6Tierney
  • 17ArmstrongBooked at 30minsSubstituted forShanklandat 87′minutes
  • 11ChristieBooked at 90mins
  • 19McBurnie

Substitutes

  • 1Marshall
  • 2O’Donnell
  • 3Taylor
  • 4McTominay
  • 5Gallagher
  • 8Jack
  • 9Shankland
  • 10McGregor
  • 12McLaughlin
  • 13Paterson
  • 18Burke
  • 20Griffiths

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