Slovakia 3-0 Scotland

Scotland’s 2018 World Cup hopes took another heavy blow with a 3-0 defeat to Slovakia at the Stadion Antona Malatinskeho in Trnava.

The Scots had started with some confidence in the crucial Group F qualifier but Robert Mak drove the home side ahead in the 18th minute, although it appeared the visitors had been denied a clear foul before the Slovaks countered.

Mak added a second in the 56th minute before fellow forward Adam Nemec made it 3-0 from a corner for the home side’s first points – and goals – of the campaign.

Gordon Strachan’s side have dropped five points in three matches and a trip to Wembley next month to play England on match day four beckons.

On this evidence, their prospects of reaching Russia in two years time seem remote.

As promised, Strachan made changes from Saturday’s damaging 1-1 draw with Lithuania at Hampden Park as captain Darren Fletcher passed a fitness test on a thigh injury.

Defender Kieran Tierney, midfielder James McArthur and striker Steven Fletcher came in for Andy Robertson, Oliver Burke and Chris Martin.

Slovakia themselves were under pressure to deliver after two defeats. As one of six changes, boss Jan Kozak had captain Martin Skrtel back from suspension and wearing a mask to protect a fixed nose.

It was the first meeting between the two countries but the 19,000-plus capacity stadium was far from full.

Scotland, wearing their pink away strip, refused to let the home side settle in the early stages.

Steven Fletcher missed an early chance with his head and Scotland keeper David Marshall parried a long distance effort from defender Jan Durica at the other end.

Otherwise it was shadow boxing, with the visitors ahead on points, before disaster struck for Scotland seconds after Steven Fletcher appeared to be impeded by Durica as he threatened the Slovakia box.

The home side broke down the left and when Marshall pushed away Marek Hamsik’s header from a Jakub Holubek cross, it fell kindly to Mak, who rifled it high into the net.

It was a body blow to Scotland but they came back strongly.

Snodgrass had a chance to level moments later but his weak angled shot was saved at the near post by keeper Matus Kozacik.

Marshall had to come to Scotland’s rescue in the 39th minute, saving a curling shot from Mak and then a low drive from Durica following the resulting corner.

The second half saw an exchange of attacks as the game stretched but it was Mak who made it 2-0 when he calmly took a cut-back from Holubek and slipped the ball past Marshall to stun the Tartan Army.

After Marshall saved an angled drive from Mak, Strachan went for broke by bringing on Ikechi Anya for Ritchie and Leigh Griffiths for Darren Fletcher.

However, it was to no avail.

The visitors fell further behind when Nemec had all the space required to head in a corner from Mak, leaving the Scots in disarray.

Griffiths drove wide of the target in the 77th minute and then forced a save from Kozacik but by then the hosts were home and dry.

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