The Czech Republic ran out comfortable 3-1 winners over Scotland here on Friday, but big question marks still remain over the home side’s midfield ahead of next week’s Euro 2008 finals.
Two goals from former Rangers misfit Libor Sionko and one from Michal Kadlec were enough to sink the Scots on a stifling hot evening, with a goal from debut boy David Clarkson all the away side could muster in reply.
But the victory did nothing to please Czech coach Karel Bruckner with his weakened midfield — minus Arsenal’s maestro Tomas Rosicky — failing to exert enough dominance in this their last warm-up match before Euro 2008.
It was the home side who piled on the early pressure, and they could have scored when Rudi Skacel’s cut-back found its way to Jan Koller, who fired over.
A Gary Caldwell foul on Koller 30 yards out provided the Czechs with another opportunity, but Tomas Galasek’s free-kick was comfortably held by Craig Gordon.
The towering Koller missed another chance to break the Scots resistance after Sionko set him up with a great cross from the right.
The Scots, in this their first away match under George Burley, managed a few ventures forward but failed to put their hosts under too much pressure.
Gordon was again called into action to block a thunderous long-ranger from Jan Polak, with Marek Jankulovski pouncing on the rebound only to blast it into the side netting.
At half-time, the 1,800-strong Tartan Army in the less-than-full AXA Arena were beginning to fear the worst.
And their fears were to be realised on the hour-mark when the former Ibrox man gathered Zdenek Pospech’s pass on his chest before firing home from a few yards out.
The Czechs doubled their lead with 83 minutes on the clock when Michal Kadlec – once linked with a move to Celtic – rifled low into the net.
Scotland immediately bounced back from that shock when two minutes later substitute Clarkson celebrated his first international goal when he deftly switched from his right to his left foot and fired home past Petr Cech.
But Sionko claimed his second of the night with a minute to go when he looped a shot over Gordon, giving the Euro 1996 runners-up a hard-fought victory.
The result means Burley is handed his first defeat as Scotland coach, and he will have plenty to think about ahead of September’s World Cup qualifier in Macedonia.
But it is his counterpart on the night who will have the biggest cause for concern, after a labouring performance that little justifies their ranking as the sixth best side in the world.
The Czech Republic start their Euro 2008 campaign with a Group A match against hosts Switzerland on the first day of the June 7 to 29, 16-nation tournament.
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