UEFA Nations League B Group 2
Slovakia 1 - 0 Scotland
Sunday, 15 November 2020
City Arena, Trnava
Slovakia: Gregus (32)
Scotland’s remarkable unbeaten run came to an end on Sunday despite a dominant performance against Slovakia.
Steve Clarke named eight changes from the side who made history on Thursday night, with Ryan Christie, John McGinn and Kieran Tierney the only three selected to start in Trnava.
Craig Gordon replaced penalty hero David Marshall in between the posts, with Oli McBurnie getting the nod up front in place of the suspended Lyndon Dykes.
Scotland started the match with the knowledge that one win from the final two games in League B would be enough to secure top spot in Group B2 and, with it, promotion to the top tier of the Nations League.
As It Happened
The hosts, who also secured their spot at EURO 2020 next summer, started rather strongly and forced Gordon in to an early save to deny Michal Duris from opening the scoring from distance.
That seemed to be the catalyst for Clarke’s men though, who immediately took the game to Slovakia and went close to taking the lead on a couple of occasions in quick succession.
The first fell to Christie, who charged through on goal before firing a low effort from the left side of the box on target, but Marek Rodak did well to smother the goal-bound effort.
The midfielder turned provider shortly after, latching on to McBurnie’s ball through before reversing a pass back to the striker. He couldn’t get his shot off quickly enough but the loose ball broke for Liam Palmer, who fired a crisply struck effort narrowly over the bar.
Some lovely play from the Scots in the 15th minute so nearly led to McBurnie’s first senior Scotland goal. Considine’s excellent anticipation thwarted a Slovakian counter-attack high up the park and presented Christie with an opportunity on the edge of the opposition box. He picked out Stuart Armstrong in support, who threaded a neat ball to the Sheffield United striker inside the box, but his effort was blocked and trickled narrowly wide of Rodak’s post.
The lively Christie continued to prove too much for the hosts in the opening half hour, holding the ball up brilliantly, beating two challenges and drawing a foul on the edge of the box. Armstrong stepped up, curled an effort over the wall but narrowly over the crossbar.
A minute later, the Southampton man rather harshly found himself in the book for a foul on Kucka, meaning he will miss Wednesday’s meeting with Israel through suspension.
Up the other end, the home side took the lead against the run of play when Jan Gregus sent a low effort across the box in to the bottom corner, leaving Gordon with no chance following a slight deflection.
That certainly did not deter Clarke’s side, who went close on a couple of occasions following the Slovakian opener.
The first fell for Palmer, who made a great run to get on the end of a pinpoint Tierney cross, but the defender failed to keep his right-footed effort down from inside the box.
Shortly after, Palmer swapped roles and this time sent in a wonderful cross from the right-hand side which McBurnie did well to meet with his head, but the effort was too central to trouble Rodak.
In a half dominated by Scotland, Armstrong went close in the dying minutes of the opening 45 when he thundered through on goal to latch on to Christie’s ball over the top, but his clever dinked effort went wide of the mark.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with the hosts going closest in the early stages before Scotland picked up where they left off.
It was the goal scorer Gregus who went close within minutes of the restart, sending a long-range effort narrowly over Gordon’s crossbar.
Some brilliant football followed from Scotland. McGinn slipped a ball brilliantly out to Tierney on the left, who picked out Armstrong’s darting run in to the box. The midfielder pulled it back first time for Kenny McLean, but the midfielder sent his effort high as he tried to turn it on target.
The equaliser looked certain to arrive on the hour mark, when yet more exceptional work from Tierney on the left presented McLean with a glorious chance. The Arsenal defender beat his man brilliant before sending a dangerous, whipping ball on to the Norwich midfielders head, who did everything right, nodding his effort towards the corner but being matched by a brilliant diving save from Rodak.
With just over 20 minutes to go in Trvana, Clarke introduced Leigh Griffiths to the action in place of Considine as the manager shifted to a back four in the search for an equaliser.
Determined play from McBurnie in the 80th minute robbed the hosts of possession deep in their own half. The striker slipped substitute Griffiths through on goal, but last-ditch defending denied the Celtic striker a chance on goal.
Griffiths would have two more attempts before the end. In the 90th minute, his low curled effort on goal was saved by Rodak who then denied him with an angled drive with the last kick of the game.
It is on to Israel in our last UEFA Nations League match where a win would secure top place in the group.
Slovakia: Rodak (GK), Pekarik, Sakta, Skriniar, Mazan, Hrosovsky, Duris (Šafranko 90+3), Kucka (Lobotka, 61), Hamsik (c) (Rusnák 68), Gregus, Duda
Unused subs: Jakubech (GK), Greif (GK), Pauschek, Valjent, Gyömber, Suslov, Mráz, Schranz, Mak.
Scotland: Gordon (GK), Tierney, Palmer, Considine (Griffiths 68), McKenna, Cooper, McGinn (c), McLean, Armstrong (Shankland 87), Christie, McBurnie.
Unused subs: Marshall (GK), McLaughlin (GK), O’Donnell, Taylor, McTominay, Gallagher, Jack, McGregor, Paterson, Burke.