Scotland miss out on Nations League promotion after Israel defeat
Scotland missed out on Nations League promotion after going down to a 1-0 defeat in Israel.
Manor Solomon scored on the counter-attack a minute before half-time to allow the Czech Republic to leapfrog Scotland and take top spot in Group B2 following their 2-0 win over Slovakia.
Scotland had enjoyed a dangerous spell before the goal and looked threatening immediately after the break but some attack-minded substitutions failed to transmit into chances as Israel held on to their lead.
Steve Clarke’s side had come into November four points clear at the top but consecutive defeats cost them. Winning the group would have put Scotland in the running for two World Cup play-off places that come via the Nations League, if needed, while promotion to the top tier would have enhanced chances of making Euro 2024.
Clarke picked the same team that started in Scotland’s Euro 2020 play-off win over Serbia last week after making eight changes for Sunday’s defeat in Slovakia.
Ryan Christie hit a free-kick into the wall after being fouled in the act of shooting but there was little else in the way of threats at either end in the opening 15 minutes.
Israel got the first shot on target when Sun Menachem got in behind Stephen O’Donnell to meet a deep cross but shot straight at David Marshall from a tight angle.
Scotland began to exert some pressure and created two good chances around the half-hour mark. Kieran Tierney played a penetrating ball forward and sharp passes from John McGinn and Ryan Jack set up O’Donnell, but the wing-back drove the ball across the face of goal rather than shooting himself.
Scott McTominay soon whipped in an excellent cross but Ofir Marciano brilliantly pushed over a backward header from his former Hibernian team-mate McGinn.
Christie then under-hit a lay-off to McGinn after a long ball put Israel in trouble and Scotland had a let-off when Eran Zahavi took a heavy touch as he checked to shoot.
Callum McGregor’s cutback evaded a Scotland shirt before Lyndon Dykes had a header saved, but the visitors were soon caught on the breakaway.
The skilful Solomon was left one-on-one with McTominay, turned him on the outside and fired inside the far post.
Zahavi and Shon Weissman came close for Israel in the opening stages of the second half but Scotland were attacking with purpose. McGinn had two shots diverted for corners and Declan Gallagher headed over from seven yards after getting a clear run at Christie’s delivery.
Christie then brilliantly sent O’Donnell away on a break but Marciano got down well to save the Motherwell man’s powerful strike.
Clarke made a double switch on the hour mark, sending on strikers Leigh Griffiths and Oli McBurnie for McGinn and Dykes.
But, as Israel sat deeper, the openings dried up for Scotland and Clarke made two more changes in the 73rd minute. Scott McKenna replaced Gallagher in a straight swap and winger Oliver Burke came on for O’Donnell to add more attacking threat.
McBurnie soon did well to get a diving header on target from McTominay’s cross but Marciano got down reasonably comfortably.
Burke quickly got some decent crosses in before Marshall kept Scotland’s hopes alive by blocking a shot from Israel substitute Eyal Golasa after a counter-attack.
Chances eventually arrived in the final three minutes but the frustration continued for Scotland.
McKenna headed Andy Robertson’s cross just wide before a long throw fell invitingly for Griffiths but the striker could not get hold of his half-volley and the ball trundled into Marciano’s hands.
If there was any doubt it was not Scotland’s night then it was confirmed when Israel right-back Eli Dasa handled in his box and saw Marciano stop the ball going straight in.
Marciano then parried a Griffiths free-kick six minutes into stoppage-time.