Czech Republic 0-1 Scotland: Ikechi Anya strike earns away win
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 25/03/16 11:14am
Scotland's preparations for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers got off to the perfect start with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Czech Republic in Prague on Thursday night.
Ikechi Anya scored the only goal of the game after 10 minutes, slotting home Ross McCormack's through ball after a quick counter-attack.
Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor made a number of fine saves to preserve the clean sheet, while Borek Dockal hit the crossbar for Czech Republic with a dipping free-kick.
The visitors felt they should have had the chance to double their lead from the penalty spot when Alan Hutton went down under the challenge of David Limbersky in the second half, but their appeal was waved away.
In the end it did not matter as Scotland, who failed to qualify for Euro 2016, held on for victory with substitute Matt Phillips even going close with a late header.
Gordon Strachan handed a debut to Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean, but otherwise picked an experienced side as they looked to win for the first time in four attempts in the Czech Republic.
The hosts had the first chance as Dockal's free-kick came back off the woodwork, but Scotland capitalised on a strong start when they went ahead through Anya.
McCormack, making his first international appearance for two years, slipped the Watford winger in behind the Czech defence and Anya made no mistake, firing under the advancing Tomas Koubek with a first-time finish.
The goal brought Pavel Vrba's side to life and Scotland had McGregor to thank as the Scotland goalkeeper acrobatically tipped over Martin Frydek's half-volley before beating clear a firm effort from Josef Sural.
Czech Republic fired in 12 shots to Scotland's four in the opening 45 minutes as the hosts, who qualified for Euro 2016 top of Group A, continued to search for a leveller.
McLean almost capped his debut with a goal when his low strike drifted wide after the interval, while substitute Phillips looked lively in his 30-minute cameo.
And Scotland felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Hutton, making his 50th appearance for his country, was tripped by Limbersky just inside the box, but referee Paul McLaughlin was not interested.
The Irish official also waved away a Czech penalty shout when Matej Vydra tumbled under Berra's challenge, before McGregor instinctively denied Daniel Pudil to keep Scotland ahead with eight minutes to play.
Czech Republic, who face Spain, Turkey and Croatia at Euro 2016, were without Petr Cech as Vrba fielded an experimental line-up, but they will be looking for an improved performance against Sweden on Tuesday.
As for Scotland, Strachan also handed first caps to substitutes Tony Watt and Paul Caddis in the second half, and his side will be full of confidence when they host Denmark on Tuesday.