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SPANISH

SPAIN played their part in keeping Scotland's Euro 2012 hopes alive last night when Juan Mata and Xabi Alonso found the net as they strolled to an easy win in Prague, writes Mark Walker.

Carles Puyol comes away with the ball as the Czechs' Milan Baros takes a tumble, Picture: Reuters
Carles Puyol comes away with the ball as the Czechs' Milan Baros takes a tumble, Picture: Reuters

Beat Liechtenstein in Vaduz tonight and Craig Levein’s men know they will go into Tuesday’s final Group I fixtures one point ahead of the Czech Republic in the race to finish in the play-off spot as runners-up to the world and defending European champions.

The Scots would then face the might of Spain knowing they had to match or better the Czechs’ result in Lithuania. It remains a tough task but Scotland can take some heart from just how awful the Czechs were against the Spanish. They never got going, looked terrified of their opponents and their defence – which Levein chose not to put to the test in the same city a year ago – was a disaster.

Tomas Hubschman, the Shaktar Donetsk player, is out of Tuesday night’s game after a red card for a terrible challenge on Alonso and Czech confidence must be fragile ahead of their trip to Kaunas. Not that coach Michal Bilek is showing any sign of concern, insisting he will not bother watching Scotland this evening.

“What is the point? It won’t change anything,” he said. “I would rather spend my time preparing for the game against the Lithuanians on Tuesday. Our work for that game starts now.

“We won’t be going for the draw in Lithuania. We can’t afford to take any chances and be forced to rely on Spain beating Scotland. We will go for the win and I have every confidence in this team that we will go there and get it.”

Spain got off to the perfect start with a quality finish from Mata, and Alonso quickly added a second goal. They were a long way off playing in top gear but their passing and movement were still a joy to watch at times as they recorded their 21st consecutive victory in qualifying.

Mata had an early effort deflected into Cech’s side netting, before he gave his country the lead after six minutes. The Chelsea winger easily sprang the Czech offside trap from Xavi’s pass and opened his body before easily slipping the ball past the exposed Cech. It was no surprise when Spain doubled their lead in the 23rd minute. Another effortless display of passing ended with David Silva looking up and spotting Alonso across goal and the Real Madrid man couldn’t miss, with Cech taken out of play by Silva’s pass.

It took the Czechs until the 38th minute to offer up a decent attempt, with Tomas Rosicky side-footing wide after a spell of possession from the home side. They blew an even better chance three minutes later when the hapless Milan Baros was left unmarked in front of goal but somehow the Czech’s only fit striker managed to take a fresh-air swipe at Daniel Pudil’s excellent cross and missed the ball entirely.

It was as good as it got for the hosts, much to Vicente Del Bosque’s surprise. “I thought the Czechs were far better when we played them at home,” the Spain coach said. “They attacked us then and caused us a great deal of problems, especially when they took the lead. But they seemed to sit back there tonight and we were able to play some nice football.

“I didn’t want to take any chances, so I took Alonso off but we remain on course to win all our group games.”

analysis World champions sail to Scotland’s rescue against listing Czechs

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