08 September 2020 07:04

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Nations League: Barella sinks Netherlands as Italy gets back on winning trail

But even though Steve Clarke and his players flirted with the notion of dragging us to a new kind of rock bottom last night, eventually they escaped from Olomouc having dodged the bullet to end them all. Having gone behind to an early goal – and looking terrified by this hiding to nothing – Clarke's players at least managed to find a way of digging out a result which should never have been in any kind of doubt. After Clarke's big reshuffle flopped at Hampden on Friday night, he had to come up with another plan for this group of players – who promise so much but don't seem able to deliver when it matters most of all. The reality was this game was in danger of getting away from them and when the Czechs took the lead in the 12th minute there was a sense of imminent disaster. And when Dykes bagged his first Scotland goal on the half-hour, sliding in to connect with Palmer's low cross and expertly divert it high into the roof of the Czech net, it did feel as if some order was being restored.

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But as half-time closed in and Marshall made another fine fingertip save to turn a shot from Adam Janos, Scotland's plight was still desperate. Fuelled by a sense of embarrassment, Scotland came out for the second half in a rush to put things right with Robertson in a particular hurry. Then in the 68th minute, Marshall had to pull out an excellent from Janos – and in injury time the Czechs hit the woodwork again with a looping header. LONDON: Scotland coach Steve Clarke accepts there will be added expectation on his side when they take on a second-string Czech Republic team in the Nations League on Monday. The Czech football association (FACR) initially said they were postponing the match after beating Slovakia 3-1 on Friday but UEFA confirmed the game would take place as scheduled in Olomouc.


Asked whether there was now more pressure on his men to return with all three points, Clarke, whose side drew 1-1 with Israel in their opening match at Hampden Park on Friday, said: "If people want to say that, that's fine. "But we will prepare properly for the game and prepare to play the best team the Czech Republic can put out there and be ready to go." "Obviously it will be a new-look Czech Republic team. "I would be happier if we were playing against the full Czech Republic team but we are in a very strange and disturbing time, if you look at the influence this pandemic has had on everybody," he said. European heavyweights England, world champions France, holders Portugal and Belgium all enjoyed winning starts to their UEFA Nations League campaigns on Saturday even if there were signs of international rust following the coronavirus shutdown. Nicolo Barella extended Italy's two-year unbeaten run as he scored the winner in Monday's 1-0 victory away to the Netherlands in the Nations League while Erling Haaland netted twice for Norway in a 5-1 thrashing of Northern Ireland.

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Roberto Mancini's Italy saw their record 11-match winning streak end with last week's draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina but got the best of the Netherlands in Amsterdam courtesy of Inter Milan midfielder Barella's header in first-half stoppage time. Italy move top of League A, Group 1 while Poland registered their first points after a 2-1 win over Bosnia in Zeneca despite the continued absence of rested striker Robert Lewandowski. Haris Hajradinovic put Bosnia ahead on 24 minutes with a penalty but Kamil Glik's powerful header pulled Poland level at the break before Kamil Grosicki nodded home the winner. Scotland scraped past an inexperienced Czech Republic 2-1 in Olomouc to go top of League B, Group 2. Jakub Pesek put the home side in front early but Scotland hit back through Lyndon Dykes who grabbed his first international goal on 27 minutes.

Captain Andy Robertson then won a penalty and Ryan Christie converted the resulting spot-kick for Steve Clarke's men. Italy returned to winning ways as Nicolo Barella's header just before halftime secured a 1-0 victory away to a below-par Netherlands in their Nations League clash at an empty Johan Cruyff Arena on Monday. Italy showed the greater urgency and quality throughout and was full value for the win that follows Friday's disappointing 1-1 home draw with Bosnia in which its 11-match winning run came to a surprise end. It was a first loss for Netherlands interim manager Dwight Lodeweges in his second game in charge after replacing Ronald Koeman and he will be concerned at the limp display from his side, which rarely threatened the visitor's goal. Italy heads the League A Group 1 standings with four points from two games, followed by Netherlands and Poland, who have three points each, and Bosnia with one. Italy, which made seven changes after Fridays draw, dominated the opening half and after Barella had seen his shot from the edge of the box deflected narrowly over the crossbar, Ciro Immobile was within a whisker of giving his side the lead. The Netherlands only effort on target in the opening period came from Georginio Wijnaldum, who capped a strong run by shooting straight at Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma from the edge of the box. The visitor got the goal it deserved just before halftime when Immobile's cross from the left allowed Barella to ghost in between the Netherlands centre-backs and head into the net. An excellent Italian move early in the second period saw Lorenzo Insigne force an excellent diving save from Jasper Cillessen as his 25-yard shot curled towards the top corner, while at the end Donny Van de Beek forced a finger-tip save from Donnarumma, the closest the home side came to a goal. 'Chiellini could still teach many defenders' - Mancini impressed by Italy veteran's performance Giorgio Chiellini returned to action for Italy in a 1-0 win over the Netherlands, his display impressing Roberto Mancini. The 36-year-old made his first international appearance since June 2019 on Monday, delivering an excellent performance as the Azzurri beat the 1-0 in the Nations League clash in Amsterdam. 3 - #Italy have kept a clean sheet against Netherlands away from home for the third time in their history: previously in 1990 with Walter Zenga as a goalkeeper and in 2000 with Francesco Toldo. "We prepared well for this game and have been playing at a high level for the last two years," he told Rai Sport. Italy took the lead through Nicolo Barella's header in the first half and restricted the Netherlands to just two shots on target in the second, the best of which brought out a fine save from Gianluigi Donnarumma after Donny van de Beek fired a half-volley goalwards. "The team played perfect football, with a bit of suffering at the end. But they [the Netherlands] played long balls and only had one chance in 90 minutes, with a save from Gigio."

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