A DOUBLE from Bayer Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick saw Scotland slump to a painful defeat in their opening Euro 2020 match against the Czech Republic at Hampden this afternoon.

The 6ft 2in forward headed the opener four minutes before half-time and then netted a spectacular effort from just inside the opposition half in the second-half to give his team a deserved victory.

Steve Clarke’s men, who had left centre back Kieran Tierney ruled out due to a slight niggle before kick-off, hit the crossbar and forced several good saves from Czech keeper Tomas Vaclik.

However, the national team, playing in their first major tournament in 23 years, find themselves in bottom place in Group D going into their meeting with England at Wembley on Friday night.

Clarke opted to stick with his three man rearguard. He brought in Liam Cooper, the Leeds United captain, to replace Tierney on the left, selected Grant Hanley in the centre and Jack Hendry was preferred on the right.

Having to field a completely new backline in a game of such magnitude was the last thing that Clarke needed.

It was an error by a visiting defender, though, that led to the first scoring opportunity of the game. John McGinn was gifted a free shot at goal in just the sixth minute when Tomas Kalas miscued a clearance. The centre back slid in to block the attempt and immediately atoned for his error

When McGinn was dispossessed just outside his own area 10 mnutes later the Czechs should have capitalised on the scoreline only remained level thanks to the quick reactions of David Marshall.

Jakub Jankto cut the ball back to Schick and the forward hit it first time. He was denied by a fine instinctive save by the keeper.

McTominay initiated an attack wide on the left shortly after. Stuart Armstrong and Andy Robertson combined well and the latter advanced forward before squaring to Lyndon Dykes. The striker got in front of his marker and got a foot to the delivery. But it slid narrowly wide.

Supplier should have turned scorer in the 32nd minute after a Stephen O’Donnell throw-in broke to Ryan Christie and the Celtic playmaker laid it off to the Liverpool left back in acres of space. Robertson got his attempt on target, but Tomas Vaclik tipped it just over.

McGinn volleyed at goal from the resultant corner and then claimed it had been handled in his penalty box. German referee Danel Sierbert was unimpressed. Nor did he award the home team a spot kick just before half-time when Scott McTominay was blocked as he bore down on goal.  

Scotland fell behind at the worst possible moment in the 42nd minute. A Jankto corner was headed clear by Hanley and picked up by Kalas who burst forward and chipped to the edge of the six yard box. Schick outjumped both Hanley and Cooper and nodded beyond Marshall and into the bottom left corner.

Clarke made a change after 45 minutes. He removed Christie and threw on Che Adams up front. But Marshall was called upon to make vital blocks twice in the opening two minutes of the second-half. He denied first Schick and then Vladimir Darida.  

Scotland responded well to that poor restart. Vaclik was forced to flap a clumsy Kalas passback that arched over his head away from his goal and then Hendry hit the crossbar from 20 yards out after a Robertson corner.

The Celtic man, who has enjoyed a fine season at Oostende in Belgium, was partially to blame for the second Czech goal in the 52nd minute. He tried his luck from long-range again when nothing was on. His overly ambitious try deflected off Kalas and spun into his own half.

Schick spotted Marshall, the hero of the penalty shoot-out in the play-off final against Serbia in Belgrade, miles off his line and tried his luck. His strike was inch perfect. It arched over the head of the helpless keeper and crept in just inside the left post.

Again, the national team responded positively. Armstrong burst forward and saw a shot deflected over the crossbar by the outstretched Kalas and Vaclik got a right leg in the way of a Dykes effort that was destined for his net.

Clarke took off Hendry and Armstrong and put on Callum McGregor and Ryan Fraser respectively. He then removed O’Donnell and Dykes and bolstered his attack with James Forrest and Kevin Nisbet.

Forrest, whose hat-trick against Israel in the Nations League win over Israel in 2018, was also denied wth six minutes remaining.  

Scotland were roared on from kick-off to the final whistle by the fans who had been allowed inside the ground despite the coronavirus pandemic, but there were to be no goals for them to cheer.