Steve Clarke last night praised his players for holding their nerve to earn a dramatic victory in Scotland’s first ever penalty shoot-out.
Goalkeeper David Marshall broke Israeli hearts with a heroic sudden death save from Eran Zahavi to tee up a trip to Serbia for next month’s Euro 2020 play-off final.
His pre-match plans wrecked by the loss of Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie and Kieran Tierney. Clarke’s makeshift side were forced to exdure their first bout of extra-time since a World Cup play-off loss to Czechoslovakia in 1961.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke (left) praised his side’s nerve in their shootout win versus Israel
The Scots won a tense shootout and now stand one game away from next summer’s Euros
Speaking after John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Lawrence Shankland and Kenny McLean displayed nerves of steel to score in sudden death, Clarke admitted his side’ practiced penalties in training.
‘It was a tight, tense nervous affair which it was always going to be. The previous game showed there wasn’t a lot between the two teams.
‘But I thought we had better control defensively than we had in the last game and we created the best chances in the game, although there weren’t very many.
‘We had touched on it every day in training after the last session, every player that trained hit a penalty. Fortunately our goalkeeper had a lot of practise at saving them.
Keeper David Marshall was the hero for the Scots, saving from Eran Zahavi in sudden death
‘The standard of penalties in training was good but obviously there’s no correlation between that and taking one in a really tense situation like tonight. But I was delighted to see them all hit the back of the net.
‘The nerve they showed was great. We’re talking about big personalities and big characters. But I think they showed that during the game as well.
‘There was a lot of pressure on them in that game. It was always going to be tight and tense but the players showed a terrific determination, desire and character to get a result for their country.’
Much of Scotland returns to stark lockdown restrictions tonight. And after testing the 10pm pub curfew by playing their first bout of extra time in 59 years Scotland’s national team helped to raise spirits beaten down by coronavirus.
It was the first time Scotland had been taken into extra time in an international in 59 years
‘We spoke about putting a smile on everybody’s face. It might not have been a very pretty performance but it was a performance which showed a little bit of heart.
‘This is a group of players who want to be successful and they show that on the pitch.’
The Scots now face Slovakia in the Nations League at Hampden on Sunday followed by a home clash with the Czech Republic on Wednesday.
Unbeaten in six games Clarke will add Hibs full-back Paul McGinn to his squad and will freshen things up with a view to next month’s play-off after the Serbians shocked Norway with a 2-1 win in Oslo.
‘Serbia or Norway was always going to be a difficult game away from home – but we go there with every confidence and looking to make a little piece of history for the Scottish national team.
Clarke’s side need to beat Serbia to reach the European Championships next summer
‘There’s been a massive physical effort tonight, especially by the lads who have played 120 minutes. We will give them a couple of days recovery and see how the knocks and the niggles are.
‘We are going to have to add two or three players which we will put in motion as quickly as we can because it’s going to be difficult to ask the same starters to start all the games. We are going to have to shuffle it a bit.
‘But we want to put ourselves in a position at the end of this month that the two games next month could see us win that group as well.’
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