Sports

Slovakia beat Scotland 1-0 in nations league

Slovakia beat Scotland 1-0 in nations league
Slovakia’s Jan Gregus celebrates after scoring a goal against Scotland. (reuters)
TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA, NOV 15 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 11/15/2020 1:55:46 PM IST

Slovakia ended Scotland’s nine-match unbeaten when a first-half goal from Jan Gregus gave them a 1-0 win in their Nations League match on Sunday between teams who both qualified for Euro 2020 amid drama last week.

Gregus scored his fourth goal for his country with a deflected shot in the 32nd minute to deny Scotland a chance to win League B Group 2, and promotion to the top league, with one match to spare.

Scotland, who won a penalty shootout against Serbia to qualify for Euro 2020, nearly equalised with the last kick of the game when Leigh Griffiths got in behind the Slovakia defence but goalkeeper Marek Rodak got his fingertips to the ball.

Scotland have 10 points from five games, four ahead of Czech Republic who host Israel later on Sunday. Slovakia, who beat Northern Ireland in extra-time on Thursday, are bottom with four points.

Scotland failed to turn dominance into goals as their nine-game unbeaten run came to an end 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.

However, Jan Gregus’ deflected first-half drive was enough to prevent them sealing promotion with a game to spare.

Despite that, Scotland stay four points in the Nations League Group B2.

That lead could be cut when the Czech Republic host Israel later on Sunday, but Scotland win in Israel on Wednesday would seal promotion.

This was always going to be about who best balanced the need to freshen up sides suffering the emotional and physical exhaustion following 120 minutes in Thursday’s play-off victories 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 with the Scots defence looking like they had not recovered from those well-publicised celebrations to the tune of Saturday Night and Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.

The danger seemed to awaken the Scots’ dormant dancing feet and suddenly Clarke’s side were on top only to fail to trouble the scoring charts after creating a series of chances.

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

McBurnie was not the only culprit, Christie, Stuart Armstrong and Liam Palmer all failing to find the target.

Slovakia made the most of their only other chance before half-time 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 powerful header that was pushed away superbly by Rodak.

While Patrik Hrosovsky fired just wide at the other end, Slovakia were defending their lead in a manner you would expect from a side who knew defeat would relegate them to League C.

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’s fingertips with the final kick off the ball as Slovakia secured their first group win.

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