Miller 44, Fletcher 83
Czech Republic 2
Plasil 78, Kadlec pen 90
Scotland suffered late heartbreak as a controversial last minute penalty by Michal Kadlec handed the Czech Republic a 2-2 draw and all but ended the Scots hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012.
Danny Wilson was adjudged to have brought down substitute Jan Rezek, a challenge which replays showed made no contact with the Czech striker who was guilty of a blatant dive. Salt was rubbed into the wound in stoppage time when Christophe Berra was booked for diving by Dutch referee Kevin Blom in a similar incident.
Scotland manager Craig Levein had been widely criticized in the corresponding fixture last year for playing a 4-6-0 formation, a move which backfired when the Czechs scored a late goal to win the match 1-0. However, in a must win match, he was only slightly more positive, using Kenny Miller as lone striker. The Scots ostensibly went with a five man midfield – Charlie Adam sat behind a further four strung across the pitch.
The Czechs lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Tomas Hubschman and Jaroslav Plasil formed the midfield screen which allowed Tomas Roscicky to play in the hole, with width supplied by Milan Ptrzela and debutant Petr Jiracek.
The early stages saw the Czechs waste two golden opportunities, with Milan Baros firing over from six yards and then Tomas Sivok heading wide from a similar range.
Scotland recovered their composure and possession of the ball. However with a midfield offering no genuine width, most of their passes were sideways and backwards. There appeared to be no real shape to the Scottish midfield and the formation seemed designed to give as many opportunities as possible for Charlie Adam to get on the ball, but Scott Brown, nominally on the right of the midfield four, began to drift into the centre, getting into Adam’s space.
Scotland’s other wide man, Steven Naismith, also moved into the central area, heaping all the pressure to provide width on full-backs Phil Bardsley and Alan Hutton. Unfortunately for the Scots, they had their hands full containing the Czech wide players. With no space in midfield, Scotland’s most progressive player was centre-back Gary Caldwell who made several sorties forward.
As a disappointing opening period drew to a close, Scotland struck from nowhere to take the lead. The ball broke to Darren Fletcher 35 yards out and he fed Miller inside the area. The Cardiff City striker looked to have taken the ball too wide but his shot across goal just had enough power to sneak in at the far post, despite a half block by the foot of goalkeeper Jan Lastuvka.
The introduction 10 minutes into the second half of Rezek to support Baros up front offered a new dimension to the Czechs’ attack and they began to take control of the game. With 12 minutes to go a stroke of good fortune gave the visitors an equaliser. Rezek drove an effort across goal which struck Plasil and diverted beyond McGregor.
Scotland responded magnificently and retook the lead just four minutes later, with Miller capitalising on a slip by Rajnoch to set up Darren Fletcher for a neat finish. That looked like being enough to secure the three points before the late drama.