Scott McTominay sparked bedlam at Hampden as his stoppage-time winner against Israel kept Scotland on course for the World Cup qualifying play-offs.
The Manchester United midfielder bundled in his first Scotland goal after Eran Zahavi’s brilliant free-kick and a Munas Dabbur finish twice had the visitors ahead in a thrilling contest.
John McGinn briefly levelled with a superb strike before Lyndon Dykes – having had a weak penalty saved – volleyed an equaliser belatedly awarded after a VAR check after the break.
Scotland’s concerted pressure looked set to fall short until McTominay pounced to leave his side two wins from a play-off spot, with trips to the Faroes Islands and Moldova up next.
Victory moves Steve Clarke’s men four points clear of Israel with three games to play in the battle to finish runners-up to Denmark.
The unbridled elation at full-time was befitting of Scotland’s first full house at Hampden since England’s visit in June 2017. It was also in marked contrast to the despondency felt by those fans after a dreadful and error-strewn first 45 minutes.
The pre-match air of optimism and expectation was quickly doused when Zahavi bent a terrific free-kick into the top corner after just five minutes for his 26th goal in his last 28 caps.
The PSV Eindhoven attacker’s finishing prowess should have been no surprise to Scotland in their seventh meeting with Israel in three years. Yet the free-kick was a needless concession from Jack Hendry, and the mistakes kept piling up before the break.
The damage could have been doubled when McTominay – back from injury to replace the suspended Grant Hanley in the back three – was caught out by a long ball and only Manor Solomon’s poor touch when clean through let Scotland off the hook.
The goal stunned Scotland, who had threatened through Che Adams in the opening minute before completely losing momentum. Simple passes were going astray and the hosts struggled to put coherent attacks together.
Scotland needed something special – and McGinn provided it, giving former Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano no chance with a sublime curled finish from 20 yards after a flowing move driven by Andy Robertson.
However, within two minutes, Scotland were trailing again. Another needless free-kick proved their undoing, this time McTominay the culprit, with Dabbur stabbing home after Craig Gordon had kept out Dor Peretz’s effort.
Dykes should have ensured the sides went in level at the break, after Peretz slid in on Billy Gilmour as the midfielder latched on to Marciano’s punched clearance just inside the box.
But the QPR striker – Scotland’s match-winner in their previous two games – sent his penalty straight down the middle, where Marciano stayed put and saved with his foot.
Scotland – knowing how costly a draw would be to their qualification hopes – were much improved after the break got a quick reward as Dykes made amends when he volleyed in Robertson’s cross.
Even that was fraught with worry for the Tartan Army, though, as referee Szymon Marciniak initially disallowed the goal for a high challenge on Ofri Arad, who had attempted to head clear, before reversing the decision after consulting the pitchside monitor.
Scotland were indebted to Gordon for preventing them falling behind again, the goalkeeper denying Zahavi, but Clarke’s side had the momentum and Tierney planted a cross on to Dykes’ head eight yards out, with Marciano shovelling clear.
The Israel keeper was then fortunate to be given a free-kick for a challenge by Dykes after his spill from a cross was knocked into the net by Tierney.
Scotland kept piling on the pressure but agony beckoned when McGinn was foiled in the closing stages by Marciano, before McTominay chose an opportune moment to open his international account.
Jack Hendry glanced on a corner in the Israel box and McTominay did the enough from a yard or two out to edge his side closer to the play-offs as Hampden erupted in delight.
Man of the match – Andy Robertson
What did we learn?
Scotland’s ability to put their supporters through the mill knows no bounds, yet the scenes at the end made all the suffering worthwhile.
It was a comeback of sheer tenacity from Clarke’s side, whose first-half display was as bad as they’ve played under him.
To turn it around took plenty of guts and sheer doggedness. With Robertson rampaging forward and Billy Gilmour much more prominent in midfield, the hosts turned the screw on an Israel side who had been given far too much freedom.
Defensive issues remain – is McTominay best suited at centre-back? – but those are for another day.
- McTominay’s 94th-minute goal was Scotland’s first stoppage-time winner since Stephen McManus netted against Liechtenstein in September 2010.
- Dykes is only the second Scotland player to score in three consecutive World Cup qualifiers after Mo Johnston, who netted in five between September 1988 and April 1989.
- Scotland have won three consecutive home World Cup qualifiers for the first time since winning all five leading up to the 1998 finals.
- McGinn (10) has scored more home goals in qualifying matches (World Cup/Euros) than any other Scotland player.
- No player has scored more goals in the European World Cup 2022 qualification process than Israel’s Eran Zahavi (7). He has also scored in three of his four previous appearances against Scotland at Hampden.
Scotland will go for the two wins they need against the Faroe Islands in Torshavn on Tuesday (19:45 BST) and Moldova away next month. Should they slip up, another chance comes when they end the campaign at home to Denmark.
- 22PattersonBooked at 85mins
- 7McGinnBooked at 49mins
- 14GilmourBooked at 81minsSubstituted forCooperat 90+5′minutes
- 3RobertsonBooked at 55mins
- 10AdamsSubstituted forChristieat 68′minutes
- 5Abu Abaid
- 4BittonBooked at 81mins
- 15AradSubstituted forKindaat 74′minutes
- 6NatchoBooked at 44minsSubstituted forGlazerat 66′minutes
- 12MenachemSubstituted forDavidzadaat 88′minutes
- 10DabburSubstituted forWeissmanat 66′minutes
- 7ZahaviBooked at 57mins
- 20Abu Hanna
Match ends, Scotland 3, Israel 2.
Second Half ends, Scotland 3, Israel 2.
Corner, Scotland. Conceded by Eli Dasa.
Substitution, Scotland. Liam Cooper replaces Billy Gilmour.
Goal! Scotland 3, Israel 2. Scott McTominay (Scotland) with an attempt from very close range to the top left corner. Assisted by Jack Hendry following a corner.
Attempt missed. Jack Hendry (Scotland) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by John McGinn with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Scotland. Conceded by Dor Peretz.
Foul by Scott McTominay (Scotland).
Shon Weissman (Israel) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. John McGinn (Scotland) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Ryan Christie with a cross.
Attempt saved. John McGinn (Scotland) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ryan Christie.
Substitution, Israel. Ofir Davidzada replaces Sun Menachem.
Attempt blocked. Lyndon Dykes (Scotland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by John McGinn.
Nathan Patterson (Scotland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Nathan Patterson (Scotland).
Manor Solomon (Israel) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Scotland. Conceded by Eyad Abu Abaid.
Attempt blocked. John McGinn (Scotland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.
Corner, Scotland. Conceded by Dan Glazer.
Billy Gilmour (Scotland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.