PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic ensured their survival in Nations League B Group 1 on Monday with a 1-0 win over Slovakia thanks to a first-half Patrik Schick goal that relegated the visitors.
Ukraine had already won promotion and finished top with nine points ahead of the Czechs on six and Slovakia with three.
The Czechs had only needed a draw on Monday to guarantee staying in the section but looked in for a tough night with Slovakia pressing early on and home keeper Tomas Vaclik just tipping Marek Hamsik’s drive over the bar in the 15th minute.
The Czechs slowly got into the game and grabbed the lead in the 32nd minute when AS Roma forward Schick ran onto a chipped through ball by Jakub Jankto before lobbing a nifty left-foot shot over onrushing Slovak keeper Martin Dubravka.
As the game wore on the Czechs gained in confidence and created a number of chances as Slovakia left gaps in midfield as they pushed forward in search of the goals they needed to snatch the victory that would keep them in League B.
Borek Dockal just missed out on doubling the Czech lead in the 42nd minute when his right-foot drive following a pass from Schick was just pushed past the far post by Dubravka.
The victory also marked a resurgence under Czech manager Jaroslav Silhavy, who replaced Karel Jarolim following a 5-1 defeat by Russia in a friendly in September.
In October, a late header by Schick gave the Czechs a 2-1 win over Slovakia to earn them their first points in the Nations League in between two defeats by group winners Ukraine.
(Reporting by Michael Kahn, Editing by Ken Ferris)