Scotland 3-2 Israel: James Forrest's hat-trick secures Euro 2020 play-off spot
James Forrest scored a stunning hat-trick for hosts
By Charles Paterson at Hampden Park
Last Updated: 21/11/18 7:34am
James Forrest scored a stunning hat-trick as Scotland came from behind to beat Israel 3-2 in a thrilling match at Hampden Park, and confirm Nations League promotion along with a play-off spot for Euro 2020.
Brighton midfielder Beram Kayal stunned Hampden with a sensational long range effort early on, but in a frantic first half Forrest equalised with a thumping low finish, before finishing off a superb team move just before half-time.
Forrest completed his hat-trick after 63 minutes with a tidy finish from Ryan Fraser's cutback, but Eran Zahavi ensured a nervous finish when he pulled a goal back with 15 minutes left. In a nerve-shredding finale, Allan McGregor produced an outstanding save to deny substitute Tomer Hemed to seal Scotland's win.
Victory ensured Scotland win Nations League Group C1 and are promoted to Group B, with a home playoff semi-final now looming in March 2020. The result also secured Scotland a Pot 3 seeding in next month's Euro 2020 qualifying draw.
Scotland: A McGregor (7), Paterson (7), Robertson (7), Bates (7), McKenna (8), C McGregor (8), Forrest (9), Armstrong (7), Fletcher (8), Christie (7), Fraser (8).
Subs: Shinnie (6), Phillips (6), McTominay (n/a).
Israel: Harush (7), Yeini (6), Taha (6), Ben Harush (6), Dasa (6), Natcho (6), Peretz (5), Twatha (6), Kayal (7), Zahavi (6), Dabbur (7).
Subs: Seba (6), Cohen (6), Hemed (n/a)
Man of the match: James Forrest.
The stakes were high for McLeish and his team; not since the final game of the manager's first spell in charge, when Scotland narrowly lost a make-or-break Euro 2008 qualifier to Italy, had so much opportunity rested on one result. Saturday's win in Albania had reignited confidence and belief, but a win was essential, and Scotland duly delivered - just.
No Israeli club or national side had managed even a draw in seven previous visits to Scotland, but Israel started confidently, and took an early lead after eight minutes. Scotland failed to press Kayal 30 yards from goal, and the former Celtic player took a touch before curling an outstanding shot high beyond Allan McGregor's reach into the far corner.
Israel's intensity and aggression was unsettling Scotland, and Peretz nearly added a second when he was played through on goal, but McKenna scrambled back to clear. Scotland were stung into action and McGregor's dipping volley from distance was goal-bound until it was palmed round the post by Harush.
The pace was frenetic as the game swung from end to end. McKenna failed to connect with a header from a Fraser corner, before Forrest then twisted inside two defenders, only to see his shot blocked by Taha. Israel broke with Kayal and Zahavi, who delivered a superb cross for Dabbur, but the striker couldn't connect when any touch would have seen the ball find the net.
Chances were flowing, and Scotland took one on 34 minutes. Armstrong's powerful shot cannoned off Tawatha into the path of Forrest standing at the penalty spot, and the in-form winger swept it home.
Scotland then took the lead before the interval with an outstanding team goal. Robertson's long ball was flicked by Fletcher into the path of Christie. The Celtic midfielder accelerated beyond the Israeli defence before cutely clipping the ball across goal into the path of his club-mate Forrest, who slipped it under Harush.
The second half began as the first had ended, with Scotland in the ascendancy but Israel looking dangerous on the break. Fletcher headed a Fraser corner over when unmarked, before McGregor's long range drive went narrowly over. Scotland needed a third goal to calm the nerves - and when it arrived it came from a familiar source.
There were only three survivors in the Scotland starting XI from October’s defeat to Israel in Haifa, as McLeish named the same team that demolished Albania 4-0 on Saturday. Israel made one change from the team that thrashed Guatemala 7-0 in a friendly last Thursday, with Peretz replacing Einbinder.
Israel gave the ball away in their own half, allowing Robertson to find Fraser on the edge of the box. The Bournemouth winger cut inside before he found Forrest, who controlled it beautifully before slotting coolly home for his fifth international goal in four days.
Any thoughts that Scotland were comfortable were dispelled on 75 minutes, when Zahavi turned and lashed a dipping shot into the far corner past McGregor, with the aid of a slight deflection off McKenna. A feeling of dread seemed to permeate around the Hampden crowd, which Fraser tried to lift when he ran onto Forrest's through ball, but under pressure he shot high and wide.
With three minutes left Rangers goalkeeper McGregor came to the rescue, when he saved brilliantly with one hand to keep out Hemed's volley from close range. Israel piled on the pressure, but Scotland held out in the pouring rain, to open up a clear pathway to Euro 2020 and seal promotion to Group B.
- McLeish has won consecutive matches as Scotland manager for the first time since October 2007 during his first stint in charge (6 wins).
- Scotland have lost just one of their last 13 competitive home games (W9 D3), remaining unbeaten in each of their last eight (W5 D3).
- Scotland's Ryan Fraser has been directly involved in 15 goals in 17 appearances for club and country combined in 2018-19 (5 goals, 10 assists).
- Eran Zahavi had a hand in both of Israel's goals vs Scotland, scoring one and assisting the other.
Man of the Match - James Forrest
What a night for Forrest! What a week for the Celtic winger!
He's now hit five goals in his last two matches after failing to score in his previous 24 appearances. He's also the first Scotland player to score two goals in successive internationals for 55 years since Denis Law scored two against Austria and then three against Norway in 1963.
The 27-year-old is also is the first player to score a hat-trick for Scotland since Robert Snodgrass in September, 2016 against Malta and he's the first Celtic player to score a hat-trick for Scotland since Jimmy Quinn in 1908.