Three days after winning its playoff final match against Northern Ireland and advancing to the next year’s UEFA 2020 European Championship, Slovakia overcame Scotland 1-0 on Sunday in League B of the UEFA Nations League.
The first victory of the Slovak team in this year’s edition of the competition keeps it in last place but only one point behind Israel.
After that, only one more round will be played. The winner of each of the four groups will advance to League A, while the last-placed teams will be relegated to League C.
Prior to the match in Trnava, Scotland declared their clear intention to win also their second Nations League match-up against Slovakia (after their 1-0 home victory in October) and become the undisputed Group 2 winners that automatically advance to the top-tier UEFA Nations League competition (League 2) where the teams will battle next year for direct spots for the upcoming 2022 World Cup.
The Scots showed more activity on the pitch from the get-go and their offensive effort resulted in Celtic Glasgow’s midfielder Ryan Christie getting fouled in the penalty box in the 27th minute.
His teammate Stuart Armstrong took it upon himself to execute the awarded penalty but sent the ball wide on what turned out to be the visitors’ greatest opportunity of the match.
Five minutes later, the Slovaks took the lead when Minnesota United’s midfielder Jan Gregus tried his luck from far off and sent a well-placed low cross through the box that brushed a defender and found its way past Scotland’s clueless goalkeeper Craig Gordon for 1-0.
It was the only goal to be scored in the Anton Malatinsky Arena in Trnava although the Scots turned up their efforts in the second half, but the home team’s goalkeeper Marek Rodak kept a clean sheet and made a save on the Scots’ big chance in the 62nd minute, defusing Kenny McLean’s header.
“We have tried a new system and it took a while to settle in. My players implemented the tactics well and I think we can build on it in the future. I think it was a quality performance on both sides,” said Slovakia’s coach Stefan Tarkovic after the game.
This was only his second match as Slovakia’s coach after the surprising switch three weeks ago and the Slovak Football association already expressed their intention to keep him as the head coach for the next year’s European Championship.