James Forrest’s sensational treble booked Scotland’s place in the European Championship play-offs as their 3-2 win over Israel saw them win their Nations League group.
The Celtic winger became the first player in over two years to score a hat-trick for the national side, as they overcame an early setback through Beram Kayal’s goal.
Eran Zahavi’s impressive finish with 15 minutes to go threatened to rattle a few nerves, but the home side held on to triumph.
Just four days after delivering a brace in Albania in a 4-0 rout, Forrest continued his hot streak with a well-taken hat-trick to ensure victory at Hampden Park, which was enough to top Group C1.
Alex McLeish’s side join Finland, Norway and Serbia in sealing play-off spots for 2020. It means that even should Scotland fail to finish second in their qualifying group, with the draw made on December 2, they are guaranteed a place in the final play-off round in March 2020.
Scotland named an unchanged side from the 4-0 win over Albania, set on avenging the 2-1 defeat to the Israelis in Haifa last month that threatened to derail the Nations League campaign two games in.
It got off to the worst possible nine minutes in when Kayal, who used to play his trade in Scotland with Celtic, was afforded far too much time 30 yards from goal to pick his spot, when he managed to loop an effort over Allan McGregor.
The home side were being exploited repeatedly down their right-hand side, with wing-back Taleb Twatha finding plenty of space in behind Callum Paterson and Munas Dabbur looking to profit off any loose balls.
Those inside Hampden were needing a lift, as the optimism of the Albania result threatened to ebb away. Stuart Armstrong’s surging run gave them some impetus and when Ryan Fraser’s resulting cross was cleared as far as Callum McGregor, his superb half-volley was kept out by Ariel Harush.
Scott McKenna had a goal-bound header cleared by Sheran Yeini, from Fraser’s corner, as James Forrest’s driving runs in-field from the right flank provided Scotland’s attacks with some vibrancy.
Gaps were still worryingly present at the back and had Dabbur been braver on the half-hour mark, he could have got a head to Eran Zahavi’s cross.
Forrest got a goal to underline his impressive first-half performance on 34 minutes, capitalising on Armstrong’s effort rebounding off Fraser’s back into his path and lashing home, for his third goal in four days in a Scotland jersey.
The Celtic winger was clearly in the mood to continue his heroics and he finished off a wonderful three-pass move to extend the lead before the break.
Andy Robertson’s lofted ball was well won by Steven Fletcher and broke into Ryan Christie’s path with room to run. Rather than take the selfish option and shoot, the former Caley Thistle and Aberdeen player lifted his head and lofted the ball into Forrest’s path, with a cool finish applied.
Scotland now had the bit between their teeth and Fletcher in particular was thriving, with his one-touch passing bringing midfielders into play and having a header of his own loop onto the roof of the net.
It was only fitting that Forrest’s night would finish with the match-ball as another well-worked move, involving McKenna, Robertson and Fraser, presented him with a side-footed finish for his first Scotland treble.
Zahavi’s goal with 15 minutes to go frayed a few nerves and they were indebted to a superb stop from Allan McGregor to deny substitute Tomer Hemed in the closing stages.
But Scotland held on to top their Nations League group and book a play-off spot for the Euros.