DAVID MARSHALL was praised by relieved Scotland boss Steve Clarke after last night’s 2-1 UEFA Nations League victory over the Czech Republic.
The 35-year-old former Celtic keeper was the team’s Man of the Match with a performance that prevented an embarrassment against makeshift opponents hastily put together due to coronavirus isolation following an outbreak in the country.
It was Marshall, who joined Derby in the summer from cash-stricken Wigan after being linked with a Hoops return, who spared the blushes of his team-mates in a distinctly under-par display from the visitors.
He had no chance when the home side took the lead in the 11th minute, but then produced a string of stunning saves that opened the way for Lyndon Dykes to equalise in the 27th minute before Ryan Christie slotted in his second successive penalty-kick for the winner seven minutes after the turnaround.
Saluting the shotstopper’s defiant showing, boss Clarke, speaking to the Daily Record, admitted: “He made some great saves, particularly the one near the end of the game down to his left-hand side.
NO CHANCE…David Marshall is helpless as the Czechs take an early lead.
“But, listen, when I took over the job David was one of the first phone calls I made to see if he’d come back to play for his country.
“And he’s done that in every game he’s played. He hasn’t let me down and has been a terrific professional who is great around the place. There’s good competition from Jon McLaughlin and young Robby McCrorie.
“But I’m really pleased with David.”
Looking at the overall performance, Clarke added: “Let’s start with the result, Everyone said we had to come here and win and we did that. We got the win. It was a good reaction to adversity.
“I knew when it all unfolded over the weekend that it was always going to be a difficult game for us. The Czech Republic were always going to play the game of their lives as it was a chance of a fairytale for them.
“For us, it was always going to be a difficult night and that’s how it turned out. But we got the win.
THE EQUALISER…Lyndon Dykes (extreme right) turns away after scoring his first Scotland goal.
THE WINNER…Ryan Christie smashes home his penalty-kick.
“When everybody puts you under so much pressure to get the win, that’s what you have to do. We knew coming here it would be difficult. I said that before the game and that’s how it turned out.
“We obviously made it more difficult for ourselves by conceding the first goal, but then showed good character to get back in front.
“The game had to be played. Obviously I spoke before about my sympathy and empathy for the Czech Republic that they found themselves in this situation. It could happen to any international team at any time.
“On the back of that I knew coming here that the lads who were selected for the new squad had the chance to make a fairytale so we always knew it was going to be a difficult night for us.”
Asked if he thought he was about to experience his worst nightmare after the Czechs took an early lead Clarke said: “Listen, you have to respect the quality of the players that we played against. I know they were not the original picks for the Czech Republic but it’s a good league with a good standard so we knew the game would be difficult.
RELIEVED…Steve Clarke faces the media after a hardly-inspiring display.
“Obviously, we didn’t plan to go one down but having gone one down you have to react and that’s what we did, we reacted well and got ourselves in front.
“We couldn’t get the third goal which would have taken the sting out of the last 15 minutes, but when the ball is going into your box you have to show character to defend and get the result for your country and that’s what we did.”
Clarke must now focus on next month’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel and insists – after five games without a defeat – Scotland can go into that crunch showdown with confidence high.
He added: “I’m always optimistic.
“I mentioned it before that I’ve never gone into any game thinking I’m going to lose. And I’ve been involved in professional football for a long, long time.
“I go into the next game planning to win.”