Scotland suffered their first defeat in 10 games with a 1-0 loss against Slovakia in their penultimate Nations League game.
After the excitement of Thursday’s Euro 2020 play-off final victory in Serbia, Steve Clarke’s side had the chance to chalk up even more success in Slovakia where a victory would have been enough to win Nations League Group B2 with a game to spare.
It was also an opportunity for Scotland to make it 10 games unbeaten for the first time since 1927.
A much-changed Scotland enjoyed the bulk of play in the first half but trailed at the interval to Jan Gregus’ deflected strike.
Scotland had chances in the second half with former Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean going close with a header but Slovakia held on for the win.
Czech Republic and Israel will meet in today’s other group game this evening (7.45pm kick off) where a draw would ensure Scotland top the group.
Scotland’s last trip to Slovakia was a painful one with the national team slipping to a 3-0 defeat in a World Cup qualifier in 2016.
But they arrived in Trnava brimming with confidence after booking their place at next year’s European Championships after their penalty shootout heroics in Serbia.
As expected, Scotland boss Steve Clarke made eight changes from the team that started Thursday’s triumph in Belgrade with Kieran Tierney, John McGinn and Ryan Christie the three players to maintain their starting berths.
Aberdeen’s Andy Considine was handed his third cap on the right-side of the back three, while his former Dons teammate Scott McKenna, now with Nottingham Forest, was also drafted back into the fold.
Craig Gordon made his first international start for more than two years and he was tested early when Juraj Kucka was afforded too much time to try his luck from distance but the Hearts goalkeeper was equal to it.
But it was the visitors who enjoyed the better of the early exchanges with Oli McBurnie twice guilty passing up gilt-edged chances to finally notch his first Scotland goal on his 14th cap.
Stuart Armstrong picked up a soft yellow card that rules him out of Wednesday’s night’s final group game in Israel before the hosts made the breakthrough against the run of play.
The Scotland rearguard were sitting too deep and failed to sense danger when Gregus collected the ball just outside the box and his low drive took a slight deflection off McLean on its way into the bottom corner.
McBurnie had a chance to restore parity but his downward header from Liam Palmer’s cross was well held by Marek Rodak in a frustrating first period for the Sheffield United striker.
Just before the break, Ryan Christie played in Armstrong but the former Celtic midfielder was caught in two minds between shooting and passing from a tight angle and in the end achieved neither.
Scotland went close to an equaliser just after the hour mark when Kieran Tierney manufactured a yard of space on the left flank before sending a teasing delivery into the area for McLean but his powerful header was expertly clawed away by Rodak.
Slovakia continued to look lively on the counter-attack as they pressed for the game’s second goal with Patrik Hrosovsky and Michal Duris both going close.
Scotland threw on Leigh Griffiths for Considine and Lawrence Shankland for Armstrong as they tried to find an equaliser but it wasn’t to be for Clarke’s men with Griffiths denied a late leveller with the final kick of the game.