Sunday 22 January 2017

Strachan struggling as Scots slump

Slovakia 3 Scotland 0

Carl Markham

Published 12/10/2016 | 02:30

Slovakia's Jan Durica (L), Martin Skrtel and Scotland's Steven Fletcher (R) (Photo: VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Slovakia's Jan Durica (L), Martin Skrtel and Scotland's Steven Fletcher (R) (Photo: VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Scotland's hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup already appear to be in severe doubt after a damaging defeat in Trvana.

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After slipping up with a draw at home to Lithuania on Saturday, Gordon Strachan's side were looking to bounce back. But a double from Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Robert Mak left the Scots toiling before Adam Nemec rubbed salt into the wounds with a third midway through the second half.

Scotland now head to Wembley next month to face Group F leaders England but after taking just four points from their opening three games even an unlikely victory over the Auld Enemy may not be enough to salvage their qualifying bid.

Steven Fletcher missed an early chance with his head and Scotland 'keeper David Marshall parried a long-distance effort from defender Jan Durica at the other end.

Slovakia's Michal Duris (L) and Scotland's Grant Hanley (R) fight for the ball (Photo: VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Slovakia's Michal Duris (L) and Scotland's Grant Hanley (R) fight for the ball (Photo: VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Otherwise it was shadow boxing, with the visitors ahead on points, before disaster struck for Scotland seconds after Fletcher appeared to be impeded by Durica as he threatened the Slovakia box.

The home side broke down the left and when Marshall pushed away Marek Hamsik's header from a Jakub Holubek cross, it fell kindly to Mak, who rifled it to the net.

It was a body blow to Scotland but they came back strongly. Snodgrass had a chance to level moments later but his weak angled shot was saved by 'keeper Matus Kozacik.

The second half saw an exchange of attacks as the game stretched but it was Mak who made it 2-0 when he calmly took a cut-back from Holubek and slipped the ball past Marshall to stun the Tartan Army.

After Marshall saved an angled drive from Mak, Strachan went for broke by bringing on Ikechi Anya for Ritchie and Leigh Griffiths for Darren Fletcher. However, it was to no avail. Griffiths drove wide of the target in the 77th minute and then forced a save from Kozacik but by then the hosts were home and dry.

But all hope was snuffed out with 23 minutes left when Nemec was left free by Paterson and Grant Hanley to get on the end of Mak's corner and thump a header past Marshall.

Irish Independent

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