Gordon Strachan hails Scotland players as gamble pays off

Gordon Strachan hailed his players after his gamble to take a small but committed squad to Prague paid off handsomely with a heartening victory.

Ikechi Anya, right, celebrates with Scotland team-mates Christophe Berra and Russell Martin after his goal against Czech Republic. Picture: Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images

Something Strachan has described as his “inquisitive phase” got off to the best of starts last night as Scotland pulled off an impressive win over Euro 2016 finals qualifiers Czech Republic.

Old hand Ikechi Anya scored the winning goal after ten minutes but Strachan gave debuts to Kenny McLean, Tony Watt and Paul Caddis. Only 18 players were left in the squad following striker Steven Fletcher’s late withdrawal, three of whom did not see any action.

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The victory sets Scotland up well for Tuesday night’s friendly against Denmark, when an almost completely new squad of players will seek to carry on the good work from Prague.

Anya’s goal proved the difference as Scotland laid the ghost of 2010, when Craig 
Levein’s striker-less side fell to a 1-0 defeat which is still talked about. Unfortunately no points were at stake last night, but this 1-0 win offered much promise ahead of Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers, which begin in September.

“There were a lot of players you would expect to start the game who weren’t here tonight, so that’s a huge bonus,” said Strachan. “It is a bit of a gamble when you come to a place like this without a full squad.

“But the group has made it a good night. A lot of guys in the group have done themselves proud tonight, especially in the second half.

“They can all be proud of what they have done, even the guys who didn’t get on. They have worked hard, too. We did a double session the other day. We have to do that because we are not a great side. But we can turn ourselves into a decent side by working hard.”

Strachan hailed goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who pulled off a series of fine stops in the first-half as Scotland sought to hold on to their lead. McGregor also made a good save near the end from substitute Daniel Kolar’s header.

“I thought he was fantastic in the first half, when he had to make some really great saves,” said Strachan.

“In the second-half he had to be really professional and take crosses and tidy up back passes and things like that.

“I wish he didn’t have so much to do in the first half but we sorted it out. We didn’t sort it out tactically, we played the same way. We just closed down better and tackled 

Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba said: “Scotland punished us from the first chance they had. You could say Anya was very lucky but it was a great goal. We had attacks – especially in the first half – but Scotland were perfect in defence.”