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Scotland slump to defeat in Slovakia

Robert Mak scores

Robert Mak (far right) scored Slovakia’s first two goals of the campaign

Scotland suffered their first World Cup qualifying loss in Group F to increase the pressure on coach Gordon Strachan.

The Scots – who drew with Lithuania on Saturday – fell behind when Robert Mak netted moments after the visitors felt they should have had a free-kick.

Steven Fletcher and Robert Snodgrass earlier threatened for Scotland.

Mak showed neat footwork to sidestep Russell Martin for the hosts’ second and Adam Nemec rose unchallenged to head their third.

Strachan’s side – who have finished fourth in their last two qualifying campaigns – now trail Lithuania and Slovenia by a point after slipping to fourth. Slovakia, with their first points, are one behind the Scots, who visit group leaders England next month.

Strachan’s big decisions

The team’s shape and tactics were sound enough and most of the manager’s significant decisions seemed logical and clear.

Captain Darren Fletcher’s fitness allowed the manager to combine him in central midfield with the hard-working James McArthur and the artful Barry Bannan, but the latter two lacked influence over the course of the game.

Kieran Tierney was strong defensively and offered attacking intent from left-back, having started ahead of Andrew Robertson – Scotland’s best player at the weekend. It was the exclusion of Leigh Griffiths that gathered the most attention, the striker having scored more club goals than either starter Steven Fletcher or Griffiths’ fellow substitute Chris Martin so far this season.

For all that Strachan might reflect that Griffiths was the only majorly contentious decision he made, his team did not deliver for him at a critical moment in the campaign. He will also wonder now if the situation is redeemable.

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Strachan’s side have four points from three matches in Group F

Defensive woes

Each of Slovakia’s goals will be painful for Strachan to review, because they were all avoidable. Slovakia almost ambled to a three-goal lead, because there was no relentless pressure or growing danger. Scotland were undone by their inability to defend, just as they had been in losing the opening goal to Lithuania.

Mak was a handful throughout, but his goals were scored in isolation. Goalkeeper David Marshall will wonder if he might have pushed Marek Hamsik’s header away from danger instead of into the middle of the penalty area. When Mak lined up to shoot, he was not closed down, so Hamsik and the goalscorer were able to make a telling impact despite nine Scots being back to defend.

The forward’s second came when he was allowed the time to shift the ball from one foot to the other and then measure his finish, all while standing just outside the six-yard box and Nemec was left unmarked at a corner for his goal when again Scotland had plenty of defenders back.

There was hard luck, since Steven Fletcher was clearly fouled by Jan Durica before the first goal, but that was just outside Slovakia’s penalty area and Scotland still ought to have defended their own 18-yard box better.

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Scotland were too easily opened up in Trnava

Scotland’s missing cutting edge

Strachan’s side are capable of scoring goals, as they showed in the last campaign and against Malta in September’s 5-1 win, but they have misplaced that threat.

When Scotland were composed in possession, diligent in the pressing and generally the better of the two sides, that sense of control never delivered a clear chance.

Snodrgass was out of sorts and Matt Ritchie was always reluctant to take on his full-back, even when left one-on-one. The overlapping of Tierney – Scotland’s best player in the first half – created openings, but the wrong decisions were always taken with the crosses. Steven Fletcher awkwardly steered a header wide, as did McArthur, while Griffiths pulled a shot wide when he came on after the break.

Live Text

Match ends, Slovakia 3, Scotland 0.

Second Half ends, Slovakia 3, Scotland 0.

Robert Snodgrass (Scotland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Milan Skriniar (Slovakia).

Ikechi Anya (Scotland) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Filip Kiss (Slovakia).

Corner, Slovakia. Conceded by John McGinn.

Foul by Leigh Griffiths (Scotland).

Erik Sabo (Slovakia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Leigh Griffiths (Scotland) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Martin Skrtel (Slovakia).

Substitution, Slovakia. Filip Kiss replaces Marek Hamsik.

Foul by James McArthur (Scotland).

Marek Bakos (Slovakia) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Kieran Tierney (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Marek Bakos (Slovakia).

Foul by Robert Snodgrass (Scotland).

Milan Skriniar (Slovakia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt saved. Barry Bannan (Scotland) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Ikechi Anya.

Substitution, Slovakia. Dusan Svento replaces Robert Mak.

Corner, Scotland. Conceded by Matús Kozácik.

Attempt saved. Leigh Griffiths (Scotland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Robert Snodgrass.

Foul by John McGinn (Scotland).

Marek Bakos (Slovakia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Leigh Griffiths (Scotland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by John McGinn.

Substitution, Scotland. John McGinn replaces Steven Fletcher.

Steven Fletcher (Scotland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Martin Skrtel (Slovakia).

Attempt missed. Marek Hamsik (Slovakia) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Marek Bakos.

Substitution, Slovakia. Marek Bakos replaces Adam Nemec.

Goal! Slovakia 3, Scotland 0. Adam Nemec (Slovakia) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Robert Mak with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Slovakia. Conceded by Callum Paterson.

Attempt blocked. Erik Sabo (Slovakia) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Juraj Kucka.

Attempt saved. Barry Bannan (Scotland) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

Substitution, Scotland. Leigh Griffiths replaces Darren Fletcher.

Substitution, Scotland. Ikechi Anya replaces Matt Ritchie.

Hand ball by Grant Hanley (Scotland).

Foul by Robert Snodgrass (Scotland).

Erik Sabo (Slovakia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Goal! Slovakia 2, Scotland 0. Robert Mak (Slovakia) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jakub Holubek.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37538763