Craig Levein's decision to drop Kenny Miller and play a defensive line-up failed to pay off as Scotland suffered the first defeat of their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign against Czech Republic in Prague last night.
The manager opted for a formation designed to frustrate their hosts and hopefully return home with at least a draw to add to the four they gained against Lithuania and Liechtenstein.
The Scots held out for 69 minutes before Roman Hubnik grabbed the only goal of the game to hand the Czechs their first victory in the section, and Levein's men must now pick themselves up ahead of the visit of Spain next week.
The build-up to the match had been dominated by headlines about Levein's decision to axe Miller, with the Scotland manager furious the news was leaked before he had named his team. The Rangers striker has been in fine form this season but had to settle for a place on the bench instead, along with Phil Bardsley who was called into the squad after switching allegiance to the Scots.
Levein received an injury boost ahead of the match, with goalkeeper Allan McGregor, Alan Hutton and Steven Whittaker all passed fit, while QPR's Jamie Mackie made his national team debut.
The Czechs had a chance to apply some early pressure when David Weir fouled Tomas Necid 25-yards out but Lukas Magera's free-kick failed to get past the wall. Whittaker was booked for a foul on Tomas Rosicky after just 13 minutes, before Necid went to ground in the box claiming he had been tripped by Stephen McManus – but pleas for a penalty were ignored.
The home side were looking dangerous and Rosicky saw his angled drive fall inches over the crossbar, before Jan Polak tested McGregor with a powerful effort.
Chances for Scotland had been few but they carved out an opportunity when James Morrison embarked on a surging run before finding Gary Caldwell. He tried to set up Mackie but Petr Cech was able to intercept before he could unleash the shot.
McGregor came to the rescue for Scotland shortly after the restart when Rosicky picked out Michal Kadlec from a corner and he managed to tip his header just over the crossbar. Graham Dorrans then had the ball in the back of the net for the visitors but the offside flag was raised before he even unleashed the shot.
Whittaker proved wasteful with a shot from distance that was well off-target, but it was proving to be a busy night for McGregor as he ensured the scoreline remained level with a wonderful save to push a Polak header past his right-hand upright.
However, he was helpless to prevent the home side taking the lead. A Rosicky corner was nodded on by Roman Bednar for Hubnik to bullet a header into the back of the net. With 15 minutes to go, Chris Iwelumo and Miller – earning his 50th cap – were thrown into the action in the hope of salvaging something from the game.
Czech Republic: (4-4-2): Cech; Suchy, M Kadlec, Hubnik, Hubschman; Pospech, Plasil, Polak, Rosicky; Magera (Bednar, 59), Necid (Holek, 84). Substitute not used: Lastuvka (gk), Rajnoch, Pudil, Vaclav Kadlec, Stajner.
Scotland: (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Whittaker, McManus, Weir; Caldwell (Miller, 76), D Fletcher, Morrison (Robson, 84), Dorrans; Mackie (Iwelumo, 76), Naismith. Substitutes not used: Gordon (gk), Maloney, Bardsley, Berra.
Referee: I Bebek (Croatia).