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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 21, 2007

U21: Scotland 1-0 Czech Rep: Naismith seals win

Steven Naismith's superb 25-yard drive gave a new-look Scotland Under-21s an impressive victory over a strong Czech Republic side at Falkirk Stadium.

The Kilmarnock forward latched on to a loose pass and drove the ball into the bottom corner in the fourth minute.

The Czechs dominated possession in the first half but Scotland withstood the pressure and could have added to their lead in an encouraging second period.

Archie Knox handed debuts to five players - Celtic defender Scott Cuthbert, Dundee full-back Paul Dixon, Kilmarnock pair Jamie Hamill and Ryan O'Leary plus Hibernian midfielder Lewis Stevenson.

And they gave a positive performance which will give Knox and assistant Maurice Malpas hope ahead of the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifiers, which begin in Finland next month.

The Czechs fielded a number of players who competed in the finals this summer as well as others who lost to Argentina in the final of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, including 18-year-old Tottenham striker Tomas Pekhart.

They dominated possession in the first half but Scotland were organised and enjoyed some decent spells themselves.

And they could afford to sit back following Naismith's brilliant fourth-minute opener.

Scotland's captain, who started on the left of a three-man attack, picked up a stray pass from Lukas Kuban, strode forward and unleashed a powerful shot into the corner.

The Scots briefly matched the visitors for possession, with Wolves left-back Charlie Mulgrew looking composed in the centre of midfield, but they survived a concerted period of pressure midway through the half.

Ondrej Kudela should have levelled when he lost his marker following Kuban's free-kick towards the penalty spot, but the Sparta Prague defender's first touch went straight into Jamie MacDonald's hands.

Cuthbert came to the rescue moments later with a superb block after Lubos Kalouda's quick free-kick found Martin Fillo unmarked just inside the box.

Kudela then won two headers from corners which were just off target and MacDonald pushed away Mario Holek's free header from 12 yards.

Knox switched Naismith back into the right-hand side of a four-man midfield in a bid to stem the tide and Scotland had a better spell.

But they were soon grateful for Stevenson's last-ditch challenge on Frantisek Rajtoral after being cut open by a sweeping move.

MacDonald saved from Michal Svec's volley from the resulting corner but Naismith almost grabbed a second when he knocked the ball past Kuban and saw a low strike saved by Jakub Divis.

Czech half-time sub Marek Strestik forced a save from MacDonald from a tight angle after skilful play on the left wing.

But the opening stages of the half were not as fluent with Scotland content to sit deep.

Scotland failed to make the most of a promising counter attack as Naismith and Steven Fletcher saw shots blocked before Mulgrew shot straight at substitute goalkeeper Milan Svenger.

Mark Reynolds then came to Scotland's rescue when he brushed Strestik off the ball as he bore down on goal.

A raft of substitutions threatened to disrupt the flow of the game but Scotland were looking comfortable and threatened to add to their tally on the break.

Naismith's low cross almost found McCormack and sub Kevin McDonald shot a powerful 20-yard drive blocked.

McCormack's powerful 20-yard volley was then parried by Svenger and sub Ross Campbell blasted over the rebound from a difficult angle.

The Scots sat deep in the closing stages but the tactics worked as they comfortably saw out the game.

Scotland Under-21s coach Archie Knox hailed Steven Naismith for his captain's role in tonight's 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic.

'He didn't half -getting the goal to start with gives everybody a lift,' he said.

'It allows you to settle in to a way of playing, and they have got to come at you - although that would have been the case anyway.

'He has been the most experienced under-21s player, so it was right he should get that honour [captaincy] - and it was a terrific goal.'

Knox was encouraged by the performance, with the qualifying campaign for the UEFA Under-21s Championship due to start for Scotland next month when they travel to Finland.

'You could see the quality of their team, so our lads battled away well,' he said.

'Overall, we can be pleased with a lot of aspects of the play

'There are obviously a lot of things we would need to improve on if we are going into competitions - their retention of the ball and our opportunities.'