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Scotland fall short in Nations League promotion bid as Israel collect 1-0 home triumph

Manor Solomon celebrates the only goal of the game in Netanya.
Manor Solomon celebrates the only goal of the game in Netanya.

If the whole of Scotland was elevated by the high of Thursday night in Serbia, the last two games have acted as somewhat of a leveller.

Defeat to Israel tonight, their second 1-0 loss in four days, ended hopes of promotion from the Nations League B and brought a nation on an unexpected high back to their feet.

Manor Solomon’s goal at the end of the first half was the only thing separating the two sides but while there were elements of the Slovakia performance to be pleased about, Scotland fell short when it came to producing a result that would have seen them in the ring with some of the European heavyweights.

The immense achievement of guiding Scotland to a European Championships will not be forgotten and as Steve Clarke has said, that is parked until next summer. There was work still to be done here and in the World Cup qualifiers starting next year.

Scotland’s Kieran Tierney (L) and Callum McGregor after Israel take the lead.

Scotland will revert to the B section in the Nations League next time around and may not, next time, have the helping hand of a play-off when it comes to qualification.

Clarke reverted to the line-up which won in Serbia, with Lyndon Dykes free from suspension and captain Andy Robertson shaking off hamstring concerns to take a starting berth.

Familiarity has bred content for Steve Clarke and this side is already delivering the hallmarks of what he would want. Diligent, hard-working, well-drilled; they know their roles and shut down opponents. You cannot see this team being involved in a five or six-goal thriller and that is no bad thing.

But at the same time when the game is stifled, or worse they fall behind, the system does not present too much flexibility to be expansive.

Scotland’s first-half chances were limited to half ones. A skewed shot by Stephen O’Donnell, which troubled the corner flag more than the goal, and a John McGinn header tipped over by Ofir Marciano was the sum total of their efforts.

Israel have proved more than useful in their encounters with Scotland, even without the presence of Munas Dabbur this time around.

The warning presented by Eran Zahavi’s errant control was not heeded by the Scotland defence and before the break, they found themselves trailing.

Manor Solomon is congratulated by his team-mates.

Solomon took up his place on the left flank, drove at Scott McTominay and left him standing before finding the bottom corner with precision. The visitors’ position was far from wise.

The reins had to come off now. The Czechs had strengthened their position against Slovakia, which with Scotland trailing gave them possession of the group lead.

Zahavi was a growing threat and appeared keen to settle this contest well before the end. The ball was now in Scotland’s court to do something with.

Oli McBurnie and Leigh Griffiths were called for, Dykes and McGinn sacrificed for the cause. Both had shown the courage to take penalties in the most trying of circumstances in Belgrade; Clarke needed them to go to the well once more in Netanya.

Scotland’s setup narrowed and in response so did the Israelis’. Blue shirts congested around the width of the penalty area, shutting off Scotland avenues knowing they had money in the bank with Solomon’s first-half goal.

Ryan Christie tries to find a way through the Israel defence.

Patience was retained by the visitors but given Israel decamped back to their own half, this came as little surprise. Again, clear opportunities were not presenting themselves though.

Kieran Tierney floated a cross that had Marciano scrambling backwards to divert over while McBurnie flung himself full-length at a McTominay delivery which the Hibernian stopper clung on to.

The biggest difference came with Oli Burke’s arrival, in place of O’Donnell, with his direct nature and unique physical skill-set presenting Israel with a challenge they had yet to face.

But the inability to break down a stubborn, obdurate opponent ultimately cost Scotland their chance at further glory. Perhaps it was too much to expect, to deliver two massive results in six days in this most crowded and unusual of football calendars.

Maybe it is a reminder of the work which still has to be done by Clarke, his coaching team and the Scotland players before they become an established international side again.

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