Football: Koller touch shatters Scots

Czech Republic 3 Scotland 2

THE CZECH capital had been preparing for its biggest street party since the Republic reached the final of Euro 96, but with 25 minutes of last night's Group Nine encounter remaining it looked as though the 5,000- strong Sporran Legion in the Letna Stadium would be doing the celebrating.

Scotland led 2-0, and deservedly so, through goals by the former Hearts Boys' Club colleagues Paul Ritchie and Allan Johnston. If they had held firm for the next 10 minutes, a famous win to set above even the recent friendly success in Germany would surely have been theirs.

Instead, the Czechs halved the deficit almost immediately through Tomas Repka. Then, following a double substitution, one of the replacements, Pavel Kuka, hauled them level.

Scottish thoughts had already turned from a stunning victory to an honourable draw. With only four minutes left the other substitute, Jan Koller, struck to send the Czechs through to next summer's extravaganza, and all that was left was sickening defeat.

The Scots are rightly disdainful of their time-honoured role as plucky failures. Yet while their makeshift line-up could not quite become the first to take a point from the section leaders, there was much in the performance to encourage the belief that they are capable of at least qualifying for a play-off as runners-up.

For more than an hour, Brown's strategy worked better than he could have imagined. Colin Calderwood shackled Patrik Berger; Karel Poborsky produced more petulance than pace; the Liverpool-bound Vladimir Smicer became so exasperated that he hoofed the ball into the stand after being penalised, and was duly cautioned; while the towering Vratislav Lokvenc looked no more than a poor man's Niall Quinn.

Scotland's enterprise might have been rewarded as early as the 10th minute only for Ritchie, making his competitive debut, to head over following Ian Durrant's free kick. Billy Dodds also stung Pavel Srnicek's fingers with a low drive.

At the other end Neil Sullivan appeared intent on putting an uncertain display in the Faroe Islands behind him, saving well from Lokvenc after Pavel Nedved had dispossessed Paul Lambert. Suitably heartened, the Scots went ahead on the half hour.

Ritchie, over whose relative lack of height Brown had expressed misgivings, was granted a second free header from Callum Davidson's in-swinging corner. This time, the 23-year-old defender made no mistake.

The Czechs, perhaps caught up in the premature triumphalism of their supporters to that point, retaliated menacingly. A free-kick routine led to a drive by Nedved which Sullivan pushed behind at full stretch. When Repka applied a glancing header to the corner, the keeper saved well.

Having withstood the home team's initial flurry after the interval, Scotland doubled their advantage in the 62nd minute. The build-up was a model of teamwork and patience, Dodds taking a throw-in from Davidson before switching the ball to Kevin Gallacher, who delivered a low cross. Johnston, stealing in front of Srnicek, claimed his second goal in successive internationals with the deftest of near-post headers.

This affront to Czech pride finally stirred Jozef Chovanec's side. Within three minutes Repka met another corner from Nedved, but this time his header squeezed past Sullivan.

A double substitution, involving the arrival of Kuka and Koller, gave the Czechs further impetus and pushed the Scots on to ever deeper defence. With 15 minutes left, Smicer sent Kuka scampering clear of David Weir to loft the ball over the onrushing Sullivan.

Koller, even taller than Lokvenc but far more effective on the ground, finally found space in the Scottish six-yard box to head in from Berger's free-kick. Czech rapture was tinged with relief. Scotland, not for the first time, deserved better.

CZECH REPUBLIC (3-5-2): Srnicek (Sheffield Wednesday); Repka (Fiorentina), Hornak (Sparta Prague), Suchoparek (Strasbourg); Poborsky (Benfica), Hasek (Sparta Prague), Nemec (Schalke 04), Nedved (Lazio), Berger (Liverpool); Smicer (Lens), Lokvenc (Sparta Prague). Substitutes: Baranek (Sparta Prague) for Hasek, 61; Kuka (Nuremberg) for Poborsky, 69; Koller (Lokeren) for Lokvenc, 69.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Sullivan (Wimbledon); Boyd (Celtic), Weir (Everton), Ritchie (Hearts); Johnston (Sunderland), Durrant (Kilmarnock), Calderwood (Aston Villa), Lambert (Celtic), Davidson (Blackburn); Gallacher (Blackburn), Dodds (Dundee United). Substitute: Jess (Aberdeen) for Durrant, 71.

Referee: H Krug (Germany).

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fund, London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...

Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Multicast, Low Latency

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...

Network Infrastructure Engineer

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...

Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Multicast)

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition