Scott McTominay’s injury-time strike saw Scotland twice come from behind to beat Israel 3-2 at Hampden Park to conserve second spot in World Cup qualifying Group F.
The visitors led early thanks to Eran Zahavi’s stunning free-kick, only for John McGinn to level matters with his own spectacular goal just before the half-hour mark.
Scotland’s lead lasted just two minutes as Munas Dabbur bundled the visitors back ahead, although Steve Clarke’s side should have gone in level at half-time, only for Lyndon Dykes to see his penalty in first-half stoppage time saved by Ofir Marciano.
However, Dykes made up for that miss by volleying the hosts level ten minutes into the second period following a VAR check for a potential high boot after the goal had initially been disallowed by the referee.
And Scotland deservedly won the game right at the death thanks to McTominay’s close-range strike to move Clarke’s side four points clear of Israel in the table and within just two wins of sealing a play-off place for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Scotland: Gordon (7), McTominay (8), Tierney (8), Hendry (7), Robertson (8), McGinn (8), McGregor (8), Gilmour (9), Patterson (7), Dykes (7), Adams (6)
Subs: Cooper (6), Christie (7)
Israel: Marciano (8), Dasa (7), Abaid (6), Menachem (6), Arad (6), Natcho (6), Peretz (6), Solomon (7), Bitton (7), Zahavi (8), Dabbur (7)
Subs: Davidzada (6), Glazer (6), Kinda (6), Weissman (6)
Man of the match: Billy Gilmour
How Scotland came from behind to move clear in second in Group F
For the fifth meeting in a year between the two countries, Clarke opted to put fit-again Manchester United midfielder McTominay into the defence as a replacement for the suspended Grant Hanley, with Rangers’ 19-year-old defender Nathan Patterson preferred to Stephen O’Donnell at right wing-back.
Israel boss Willi Ruttensteiner had several players missing through injury and suspension but there were familiar faces in Celtic’s Nir Bitton and former Hibernian keeper Marciano, who grabbed a weak shot from Adams inside the first minute after he had been set up by Patterson.
However, with their first effort on goal, following Hendry’s foul on star man Zahavi 20 yards from goal, the visitors took the lead.
Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay started in a three-man back line having recovered from injury in place of the suspended Grant Hanley.
Meanwhile, Steve Clarke also brought in Rangers’ Nathan Patterson in place of Stephen O’Donnell at right wing back as the hosts made just the two changes from the side that won so impressively in Austria last time out.
As for the visitors a name familiar, with many in Scotland returned to their defence as Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton was recalled.
The PSV Eindhoven striker picked himself up and curled the set-piece high past flailing goalkeeper Craig Gordon and the Scottish script needed to be rewritten.
McGinn’s goal from the edge of the box came after good work by skipper Andy Robertson and Adams, the Aston Villa playmaker taking a pass from the former and curling the ball high past Marciano.
The home fans were still celebrating when a free-kick from deep into the box from captain Bibras Natcho caused all sorts of mayhem and when the ball broke loose from Gordon, unmarked Dabbur knocked it in from close range.
It was a calamitous goal for Scotland to lose and there was more woe to come after midfielder Billy Gilmour was felled by Natcho just inside the box after Marciano punched away a McGinn corner.
Dykes, who scored the winner from the spot in the 1-0 victory over Austria last month, drove the resultant penalty straight at the Israel keeper who cleared with his left foot, leaving the home support deflated through the break.
Scotland started the second half with some purpose and added pace and Dykes had the ball in the net in the 54th minute from a Robertson cross.
Polish referee Szymon Marciniak ruled it out initially, perhaps thinking the striker’s foot was too high as Ofri Arad challenged, but eventually he ran over to his pitch-side monitor and awarded the goal.
Yet again, Scotland almost conceded immediately after getting back on track but this time Gordon saved a header from the unmarked Zahavi.
Moments later, at the other end, Marciano made a great save from a Dykes header and Kieran Tierney had the ball in the net – but it was ruled out for a foul by Dykes on Marciano.
It was non-stop action.
Marciano saved a point-blank effort by McGinn but had no chance when McTominay bundled in a corner from the Villa star to send Hampden Park into raptures and the Scots one step closer to a play-off spot for Qatar.
No place like home for Scotland – Opta stats
● Scotland have won three consecutive home World Cup qualifiers for the first time since winning all five in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup.
● This was the seventh meeting between Scotland and Israel since October 11, 2018, the most played fixture amongst nations competing in European international competitions in this period.
● Scott McTominay’s 94th-minute goal against Israel was Scotland’s first 90th-minute winner since Stephen McManus netted vs Liechtenstein in September 2010.
● Lyndon Dykes is only the second Scotland player to score in three consecutive World Cup qualifying appearances after Mo Johnston, who netted in five consecutively between September 1988 and April 1989.
● Munas Dabbur became the first Israel player to score in four consecutive appearances in World Cup qualifiers since Eden Ben Basat (6 in a row between Oct 2012 – Oct 2013).
● John 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). Zahavi has also scored in three of his four previous appearances against Scotland at Hampden Park, also netting in November 2018 and September 2020 in the UEFA Nations League.
What the manager said…
Scotland boss Steve Clarke: “The whole complexion of the night changed on the first five minutes (when Israel scored from a free kick).
“That puts us on the back foot and makes it a longer night, with no real control of the game in the first half.
“It was then about telling everyone to stay calm and make sure the fourth goal came for us, which it did.
“In the second half we played at our intensity, at our pace and eventually we got the winning goal – although we left it a bit late for everyone’s blood pressure.
“But it is a great way to finish the game and you see the atmosphere in the crowd.
“We can enjoy ourselves, but not too much because that is one of the cup finals out of the way, now we have to dust ourselves down and go against the Faroes.
“It gives us a bit more belief going forwards, but I keep saying about this group of players – they show it every time they go onto the pitch.
“They want to be successful for their country, and that is what the second half was all about.
“This keeps us in control of the fight for second place, but the Faroes is a tough place to go.
“We will look for three more points and if we have to go to Moldova and get three more points, then that is what we will have to do.
“It is not to get carried away with this one. It keeps us in control of second, but that is all it does.”
What the pundits said…
Ally McCoist told Sky Sports: “Gilmour has been magnificent. Go and get yourself a bath, wee fellow. Scotland have been incredible in this second half.
“It’s the best 45 minutes I’ve seen from Scotland in many, many a year. In the first half, we were a little bit off the pace. Defensively we were slack for the goals and we missed the penalty.
“You were thinking, ‘how are we going to react?’ But, boy did we react. Whatever Steve said at half-time, they came out and Billy Gilmour was absolutely terrific. Tierney was phenomenal down the left side with Robertson and we deserved it. Make no mistake about it. Listen to this place. Magic!”
James McFadden told Sky Sports: “The place is absolutely rocking. You wondered if the performance was going to come at half-time, and I think it’s the best we’ve played in a long time in that second half. We controlled the game and absolutely dominated. It was brilliant. To get the draw wouldn’t have been a disaster but to win it in that manner is absolutely brilliant. I’d do it all over again.
“The heads could’ve gone down after they missed the penalty.”
What the players said…
Andy Roberston told Sky Sports: “We dictated the game and created chances, we were the ones pushing.
“I would rather it (the goal) had not come so late, but sometimes they are the better ones because you don’t then really need to hang on.
“It was a big result for us, we know how important it is – but only if we use it properly.
“We have got a couple of games left in this group and we need to keep pushing.
“We would rather win the game two or three nil and not be nervy, but that is not Scotland.
“I have grown up watching the national team, it has always been the same and you never get used to it.
“Hopefully we can make it a wee bit more comfortable in different games, but tonight was all about determination and concentration.”
Scott McTominay told Sky Sports: “It’s probably not the best goal I’ve scored but I’ve probably not scored a more important one, as you can see from the reaction of all the Scotland fans. It’s amazing. I can’t put it into words.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget. We knew they’d be a difficult team. We were so poor in the first half but I thought it was total domination from us in the second half. We needed to wake up. They were more aggressive and more compact. I thought we showed what we are made of in the second half.
“It’s my grandad’s birthday on Monday so I knew I had to score before then. That’s for my grandpa.”
Man of the Match – Billy Gilmour
Not for the first time in his fledging Scotland career, Gilmour produced an accomplished display far beyond his 20 years.
The Chelsea midfielder, who is currently on a season-long loan at Norwich, caught the eye with his incisive and probing passing that helped push his side forward after twice going behind at Hampden, especially for John McGinn’s first-half equaliser.
Gilmour was also felled just inside the box to earn Scotland a penalty in stoppage time at the end of the first period, which they spurned, and it was the youngster’s composure on the ball at the base of midfield that was pivotal in the hosts’ second-half comeback.
And already in the space of just a few months, the player has become indispensable for manager Steve Clarke.
Scotland travel to the Faroe Islands on Tuesday night, before finishing their campaign in November with games in Moldova and at home to Denmark.