Promoted Scotland come from behind to qualify for UEFA Nations Play-off

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Scotland v Israel (Tuesday 20 November 2018), Hampden Park Stadium, Glasgow

Authors: Mark Szczuka & Roddy Speirs

Just over 20,000 Scottish fans braved the mid-week cold conditions to see their country recover from conceding an early goal to defeat Israel 3-2 and qualify for the play-offs for Euro 2020, and win promotion to League B.

Scotland manager Alex McLeish named the same starting 11 who convincingly defeated Albania 4-0 just 3 days ago on Saturday. In contrast only three players from tonight’s team started the away match against Israel just one month ago, the two McGregors and captain Andy Robertson

The home fans were stunned when, with less than 10 minutes on the clock, former Celtic player Beram Kayal scored a superb long-range strike. Scotland were kicking themselves they didn’t close him down quickly enough as he was given plenty of time and space to eye his target and release an unstoppable shot into the top left-hand corner of Allan McGregor’s goal.

Scotland came more into the game after that shaky start and had a great long-range shot from Callum McGregor tipped away for a corner by Israeli keeper Ariel Harush.

Scotland’s patience paid off after 33 minutes when James Forrest scored with a shot from just inside the box to the keeper’s bottom right hand corner.

And then less than 10 minutes later Forrest was on the score sheet again with a composed finish after a great ball over the last defender from Celtic team mate Ryan Christie.

Forrest capped off a fantastic performance with his 3rd goal of the night after 64 minutes with another excellent move from Scotland.

He had received a commemorative medal before tonight’s match for winning his 25th cap against Albania at the weekend and has now scored an amazing five goals in his last 2 matches, in contrast to none in his previous 24!

It was Scotland’s first hat-trick since Robert Snodgrass’ hat-trick away to Malta a couple of years ago.

Steven Fletcher is the only other player in modern times to have also netted three goals, with home and away hat-tricks in 2015 against Gibraltar. Before that you have to go back almost 50 years to the 1960s when the likes of Denis Law and Colin Stein were regular hat-trick heroes.

Israel added a bit of nervousness for the home fans by pulling a goal back with 15 minutes left to play with a goal from Zahavi but Scotland held on for their 3-2 victory they needed to leap above Israel to win the group.

Scotland now have the safety net of a guaranteed play-off spot in March 2020 if they fail to qualify in next year’s qualifiers for Euro 2020. Finland, Norway and Serbia are the other three sides involved.

Scotland manager Alex McLeish has now completed 10 matches in his second spell in charge of the national team, the same as during his first spell back in 2007.

His record this time is four wins and six defeats compared to seven wins and three defeats first time around. Scotland have now lost just one of their previous 13 competitive home matches, and that was to Germany who were world champions at the time.

We now wait to see who Scotland will face in the “proper” Euro 2020 qualifiers when the draw takes place in Dublin in less than 2 weeks’ time on Sunday 3 December.

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