Spain beat Czechs to hand Scotland a Euro 2012 lifeline

By Clive LindsayBBC Scotland
Juan Mata celebrates
Mata opened the scoring for Spain after only six minutes in Prague

Spain handed Scotland a Euro 2012 lifeline with an assured and comfortable victory over the Czech Republic in Prague.

Juan Mata slotted home past Chelsea team-mate Petr Cech after only six minutes following a fine through ball from Barcelona midfielder Xavi.

Manchester City midfielder David Silva set up Xabi Alonso to sweep the ball into the net 17 minutes later.

Defeat means the Czechs remain two points ahead of the Scots in Group I.

But Craig Levein's side can go a point ahead in the race to finish second behind Spain should they defeat Liechtenstein in Vaduz on Saturday evening.

Xabi Alonso (centre) celebrates
Alonso (centre) scored but was then taken off through injury

The Scots would then travel to Tuesday's final game in Spain hoping that they can at least match whatever points the Czechs take from their final outing in Lithuania.

Should the Scots lose and the Czechs draw, Levein's side will miss out on a play-off place because of an inferior head-to-head record.

Despite his side having already secured qualification after seven straight wins, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque resisted the temptation to experiment in Prague.

They were minus influential Barcelona midfield duo Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta through injury along with Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo.

However, goals from Chelsea playmaker Mata and Real Madrid midfielder Alonso gave the near full-strength Spanish side a comfortable half-time lead.

The Czechs rarely threatened, although Milan Baros squandered a chance to reduce the arrears just before half-time with an air shot in front of goal.

Spain's Fernando Torres looked out of sorts as he failed to end an international goal drought that has lasted since September last year, when the Chelsea striker scored twice in a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein in the opening qualifier.

He was replaced in the second half with David Villa and the Barcelona forward could now be pushing for a start against the Scots.

Spain have concerns over the fitness of Sergio Ramos and Alonso and the pair will be assessed before training on Sunday, but no risks will be taken with their fitness given the fact that they have already qualified.

Real Madrid defender Ramos was substituted at half-time as a precautionary measure.

Former Liverpool midfielder Alonso hobbled off after the break following an over-the-ball tackle from Tomas Hubschman.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder will now be suspended for the Czech's trip to Lithuania.