James Forrest hit an inspired hat-trick as Scotland clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory over Israel to seal their progression from Nations League Group C and move within two games of Euros qualification.
Alex McLeish's men fell behind in just the ninth minute as Beram Kayal gave Israel an early lead, giving the home fans inside Hampden Park a familiar sinking feeling. But the response was emphatic from Forrest, who scored twice before half-time.
He proceeded to cap his hat-trick in the 64th minute, scoring his fifth goal in two games for Scotland. Eran Zahavi's late goal made things nervy as Israel piled forward in search of an equaliser that would have changed the look of the group, but Scotland held on for a crucial win.
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This result means Scotland have been promoted from League C to League B for the next Nations League, with play-offs for the European Championships to come in March 2020. McLeish’s men are just two games from qualifying for a major tournament for the first time since 1998.
In Ryan Christie, James Forrest and Ryan Fraser, Scotland have found something.
Were it not for the injuries that decimated Scotland’s squad ahead of last week’s game away to Albania, Ryan Christie, Forrest and Ryan Fraser might not even have started together. But whether by design or not, Scotland might have stumbled across an attacking unit to build around. The trio were hugely energetic and creative, playing well off Steven Fletcher as well. These three players could provide Scotland with a model going forward.
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Image credit: PA Sport
MAN OF THE MATCH
James Forrest (Scotland) - Before this international break, Forrest had yet to score in the dark blue of Scotland. Now, two games later, he has five goals to his name, and 12 goals in his last 11 appearances for both club and country. Forrest has been unstoppable this past week, and in Christie, Fletcher and Fraser he has an attacking unit that gets the best out of him. Forrest could become a real difference-maker for Scotland in the years to come.
Scotland - McGregor 7, Paterson 5, Robertson 7, McKenna 7, Bates 6, McGregor 7, Armstrong 7, Fraser 8, Forrest 10, Christie 7, Fletcher 7. Subs - Shinnie 6, Phillips 5, McTominay 5.
Israel - Harush 6, Yeini 5, Taha 6, Ben Harush 5, Dasa 5, Natcho 7, Peretz 6, Tawatha 7, Kayal 7, Zahavi 6, Dabbur 7. Subs - Cohen 5, Seba 5, Hemed 6.
9’ GOAL! Scotland 0-1 Israel: It just had to be him! It's Kayal on his return to Glasgow and what a strike that was from the midfielder! Scotland were slow to press him and Kayal bent a right-footed strike into the top corner of the net from about 20 yards out!
25’ Double opportunity for Scotland! First, Armstrong drives to the edge of the box, with the move breaking down between Fletcher and Christie. The ball falls to McGregor, though, and his strike requires a diving save from Harush.
35’ GOAL! Scotland 1-1 Israel: An equaliser! It had been coming. Armstrong creates the space for a shot, it strikes the back of Yeini, falls to Forrest, who controls and then smashes a right-footed strike into the bottom corner! That's what Scotland needed, desperately!
43’ GOAL! Scotland 2-1 Israel: Scotland have turned this around! Fletcher's knock on sets Christie on his bike, with the Celtic man finding his club teammate Forrest, who was free on the other side of the box. Forrest takes a touch and fires home!
64’ GOAL! Scotland 3-1 Israel: It's three for Scotland three for Forrest! Fraser burst into the box, squares it for Forrest, whose first touch sets him up, losing the defender in the process, and then finishes past Harush! Scotland have a two-goal cushion now!
75’ GOAL! Scotland 3-2 Israel: A lifeline for Israel! Is there time for them to complete a comeback! Zahavi picked up the ball 20 yards out, Scotland were slow to close him down, and the Israeli striker sends a reverse finish into the left-hand corner of McGregor's net!
89’ What a save! That was the moment for Israel. Hemed broke the offside trap to get in behind and get on the end of a diagonal ball. His volley was a good one, but McGregor throws up a hand to make the reflect save!
James Forrest became the first Scotland player since Denis Law to score two goals in consecutive international.
Forrest also has 12 goals in his last 11 games for club and country and became the first Celtic player to score a hat-trick for Scotland since Jimmy Quinn 110 years ago.
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