Levein's Scotland get back to basics
Craig Levein enjoyed a dream start to his Scotland managerial career with a hard-fought, if perhaps slightly fortuitous, 1-0 win over the Czech Republic.
After riding their luck in a first period dominated by an elegant passing side led by the classy Tomas Rosicky, Scotland steadily improved their performance with Scott Brown netting the winner after 61 minutes to give them their first victory in a friendly at Hampden since 1996.
The contrast between Levein's defensive approach and the more expansive tactics unsuccessfully adopted by his predecessor George Burley was clearly evident.
While Burley harboured grand ambitions of turning Scotland into an attacking force, Levein's strict 4-5-1 formation will pursue positive results on the basis of a solid defence.
The players, however, remain the same with not a single debutant on show against the Czechs.
It would be remiss to read too much into an international friendly but there are clear signs of hope and progress that the Tartan Army can cling onto with one eye on qualifying for Euro 2012.
Graham Dorrans, a player who has excelled for West Brom this season, looked completely at ease in the international arena and combined plenty of industry with a willingness to get on the ball.
Craig Gordon, undoubtedly the busier of the two goalkeepers, earned his clean sheet with a number of fine saves. If Scotland are going to pip the Czech Republic to second spot behind Spain in Group I of the Euro 2012 qualifiers, Gordon will have to be at his impeccable best throughout.
"Thanks pal, we'll have more of those please"
The engine room in central midfield of Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson will ensure plenty of graft and an uncomfortable 90 minutes for their opponents.
With James McFadden Ã¢ÂÂ Scotland's one player who can conjure up a magic moment Ã¢ÂÂ missing with a groin injury, Kenny Miller was handed a starting berth as a lone striker before being replaced by his Rangers team-mate Kris Boyd, who made his national return after a self-imposed 16-month exile.
Boyd, who was booed by a few but applauded by the majority of the 26,000 present at Hampden, will surely provide goals during the qualifying campaign, particularly against the lesser obstacles of Lithuania and Liechtenstein.
However, it must not be forgotten that the Czechs were without their usual No.1 Petr Cech, who will prove a far greater obstacle than Hertha Berlin stopper Jaroslav Drobny did last night.
Scotland will have to raise their game considerably if they are to achieve a similar victory when the sides meet in the Czech Republic in October.
There were moments during the first half where the home supporters grew restless and frustrated with Levein's approach. But the Tartan Army will have to become quickly accustomed to such pragmatism as sparse resources dictate that Scotland sadly don't have the required talent to play attractive possession football.
Firm: Scott Brown and Kenny Miller point the way
But what the Scottish squad lacks in technique, it is duty-bound to compensate for with bucket-loads of effort and passion. This was lacking under Burley but Levein looks capable of stirring the beating hearts under those navy blue shirts.
The route to qualification success will come through soaking up pressure, sneaking a goal on the break and a whole lot of luck. Levein will be hoping Scotland's luck continues when the qualifiers kick-off next season.
Ray of hope Graham Dorrans grabbed his opportunity with both hands and showed why he could be an important player for the Scots during Craig Levein's reign.
The manager The former Dundee United boss will be glad to get off to a winning start. However the real work starts away to Lithuania on September 3 when the Euro 2012 Qualifying campaign kicks off.
The crowd Perhaps understandably, Hampden was far from full for a friendly that was being shown live on satellite television. However the Tartan Army gave Kris Boyd a forgiving welcome as he made his international comeback with the few jeers drowned out.