STEVE Clarke has absolved David Marshall of any blame for Scotland’s opening Euro 2020 defeat despite the goalkeeper being some distance off his line when Czech Republic striker Patrik Schick netted from 50 yards out at Hampden yesterday.

The national team crashed to a painful 2-0 defeat in their initial Group D match – their first game in a major tournament since France ’98 some 23 years ago – after conceding twice to the clinical Bayer Leverkusen forward.

Marshall, the hero of the play-off final penalty shoot-out win over Serbia in Belgrade back in November, was standing outside the D of his penalty box when a hopeful Jack Hendy shot deflected off Tomas Kalas at the other end of the park and spun into his half.

Schick, who had opened the scoring with a header just before half-time, spotted this and struck a sensational first-time shot from exactly 49.7 yards that arched over his opponent and crept in just inside the left post. 

However, Clarke, whose team now take on joint pre-tournament favourites England at Wembley on Friday night, felt the Derby County player was in the correct position and praised the quality of the strike.

“Well if he’d been on his line he (Marshall) would have caught it,” he said. “In normal circumstances he’s looking to sweep up behind the defence. But it was a fantastic finish. I think rather than looking to apportion blame all the time sometimes you’ve got to credit the goal scorer.

“I think the breaks went against us at the wrong time. Obviously losing a goal five minutes before half-time - from the second phase off a set play - was disappointing for us. We normally defend that quite well so that was a blow.

“We came out for the second-half and tried to get back in it. Jack hit the bar. Then Jack had another shot which got blocked and fell straight to their striker and he produced a marvellous finish.  From there it becomes a long afternoon and a difficult afternoon.

“I thought we showed good invention and had chances to get back in the game. Had one gone in it could have been a different ending to the afternoon. So it’s disappointing, but we are ready for the next one.”

Clarke was without Kieran Tierney - the Arsenal left back who has been one of Scotland’s outstanding performers this season was ruled out with a slight niggle - but he is hoping the defender will be available for their next game. “Yes, he’s got a chance,” he said. “We’ll work on him over the next few days, but he’s got a chance of being fit for Friday.”

The former Newcastle United, Chelsea and Liverpool assistant persevered with his three man defence and his 3-5-2 formation despite Tierney not being available and felt that Liam Cooper, Grant Hanley and Jack Hendry did well together in difficult circumstances.

“Obviously we have done a lot of work with team shape and Kieran was involved in that,” he said. “We had 48 hours to go when he picked up the little niggle that kept him out. It does take a little bit of changing, it changes the dynamic of the team. Kieran has been an integral part of how we have played recently. 

“But I don’t think we defended too badly. The moments in the game that got away from us? The first one is preventable, the second one is really good.  The rest of the team? The dynamic was okay. 

“I went with Stuart Armstrong to try to give us somebody driving from midfield. The way the game panned out there wasn’t much midfield play in the first half anyway. It was only when the game opened up that we started to get the opportunity to play through midfield and when we did that I thought we were decent and created some good chances.” 

Clarke, who had targeted a place in the knockout rounds of the competition before the Czech reverse, is confident his men can improve upon their performance at Hampden when they take on England in London.

“We didn’t come here for a learning experience, but obviously if we have to learn lessons from it that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “We came here to be competitive and I think we were competitive in the game. 

“Sometimes a football match doesn’t go your way and today was that day. I don’t think there was much between the two sides if you look at our attempts at goal. Our possession was good we just weren’t quite clinical enough at the right time, but the game on Friday will take care of itself.”

Scotland performed far better when Che Adams replaced Ryan Christie at the start of the second-half and the Southampton striker now looks certain to start against England. Asked if he should have gone with the forward from kick-off, Clarke said: “Hindsight is a wonderful gift. Nobody has got it.”