SLOVAKIA defender Martin Skrtel last night cursed his side’s luck and said it was advantage Scotland in the race for a Group F play-off spot. Having kept Gordon Strachan’s side at bay with ten men for more than an hour, the former Liverpool defender put through his own goal with Chris Martin in attendance to give Gordon Strachan’s late salvation at Hampden Park on Thursday night. The Slovaks must now take care of Malta in Trnava, knowing all the while that a Scotland victory in Ljubljana would render their efforts redundant.

“It was a cruel way for it to end for us, and me in particular,” said the 32-year-old, now playing his club football at Fenerbahce. “We knew it is always difficult to play against them, particularly with one less men. I think we did well but unfortunately we lost the late goal and we lost the game.

“It won’t be easy for Scotland in Slovenia, but they have the advantage now,” he added. “We just have to win our game against Malta and then wait for the result to come in.”

Skrtel was particularly unhappy as he, like so many in Slovakia colours, felt wronged by Serbian referee Milorad Mazic. The same referee dismissed Skrtel for an alleged stamp on Harry Kane back when an even later goal saw the Slovaks go down 1-0 to England in Trnava last September.

As difficult as it was to make the case for Robert Mak to stay on the field after a deserved first booking then a clear dive in the penalty area, Skrtel for one was happy to fight his corner. “It was harsh, you know,” said Skrtel. “He conceded a yellow card after the first foul, and then for the second one, obviously he fell down but he tried to get up and play. The referee decided to give him a second yellow but I don’t agree with it. The first game against England that we played, I got sent off, so this was the second time with the same referee.”

As different as this game was to the 3-0 Slovakian win in Trnava, Skrtel – who formerly played under Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool – said he wasn’t surprised by the job the Northern Irishman is doing at Celtic Park, a job which is clearly paying dividends with the Scotland national team.

“It is difficult to say how much better Scotland are now,” he said. “This was a different game because we played almost 70 minutes with one less men. Obviously they attacked a lot and created chances. I think we defended well but there was one situation and we conceded the goal. It is disappointing for us.

“Brendan is a great manager, you know,” the 32-year-old added. “I played with him for two or three seasons at Liverpool. He is a nice guy and a top manager so I am not surprised he is doing a great job there.

“And we knew how much they relied on the Celtic players before the game. I think it was after our game in Trnava that Scotland changed a lot, they brought a lot more players in from Celtic and they started playing quite well. We knew before the game it was going to be difficult. The red card was something that we didn’t expect but that is football and we can’t change anything now. We just have to believe and wait."