Scotland earned a morale-boosting 1-0 win over the Czech Republic as Gordon Strachan’s men began their preparations for the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign with a victory.
Ikechi Anya put Scotland into the lead after nine minutes in Prague on Thursday, racing on to a throughball from Ross McCormack before slotting a neat finish through the legs of debutant goalkeeper Tomas Koubek.
Allan McGregor made a string of saves to keep his side ahead and Borek Dockal saw his free-kick smash back off the crossbar shortly before Anya’s opener.
Victory for Scotland – who saw their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 dashed thanks to a controversial late penalty in a 2-2 draw at Hampden Park in September 2011 the last time the sides faced each other – sets them up nicely for a home friendly against Denmark on Tuesday. The Czech Republic travel to Sweden looking for a response with Euro 2016 looming on the horizon.
Alan Hutton won his 50th cap for Scotland and Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean was given his debut, while the hosts were without stars Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky through injury.
Following a minute’s silence to mark the death of Johan Cruyff, Dockal struck the crossbar with a terrific free-kick after just seven minutes, McGregor recovering to claw out Tomas Sivok’s rebound header.
The visitors took the lead when McCormack freed Anya, who fired a shot through the legs of goalkeeper Koubek in a carbon copy of his goal against Germany in Scotland’s unsuccessful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
McGregor then tipped over a rising drive by Martin Frydek and the Scotland goalkeeper made further saves from Josef Sural and Tomas Necid as the home side cranked up the pressure.
Scotland went close to scoring a second goal just before half-time when Russell Martin sent a looping header over the crossbar from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick.
Strachan’s side were threatening on the break and Anya created a chance for McLean after 53 minutes, but the debutant hesitated and dragged his shot wide of the post.
A superb flowing move from the visitors then saw substitute Matt Phillips have a header saved after another excellent Snodgrass delivery, before Martin’s header drifted just wide.
Vladimir Darida pulled a shot wide and Snodgrass headed off target as the game started to be broken up by regular substitutions from both sides.
The Czech Republic topped their Euro 2016 qualifying group – finishing above Iceland, Turkey and the Netherlands – but they struggled to break down a determined Scotland outfit.
Scotland could have had a penalty when Hutton went down in the box after 72 minutes, before Czech striker Matej Vydra also had appeals for a spot-kick rejected.
Striker Tony Watt was handed a late debut for Scotland, whose lead was protected by McGregor’s terrific full-length save from a ricochet in the box.
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