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Scotland take a huge step towards World Cup play-offs with dramatic 3-2 defeat of Israel

Scotland Captain Andrew Robertson celebrates the equaliser to make it 2-2 against Israel.

Scotland took a massive step towards the World Cup play-offs with a last gasp, dramatic 3-2 defeat of Israel.

Battling to the very end the Scots grabbed a winner four minutes into injury time through Scott McTominay to take command of the race to finish runners-up in Group F and secure a play-off spot in March.

Scotland are now four points clear in second spot ahead of nearest rivals Israel.

Should they beat minnows Faroe Islands and Moldova in the next two fixtures, both away, the Scots will secure a play-off berth.

Beat those two minnows and the play-offs will be confirmed before the Scots have to face runaway Group F leaders Denmark in the final game of the qualifying campaign next month.

This was the first sell out at Hampden since the coronavirus pandemic hit last March and the Tartan Army responded by delivering the Hampden Roar.

Scotland delivered by giving them a win to celebrate.

Prior to kick-off Aberdeen and Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson made a welcome return to Hampden, the stadium where he led Aberdeen to four Scottish Cup triumphs and a League Cup.

During his phenomenal career Sir Alex never secured an official Scotland cap.

That was remedied when the 79-year-old was awarded a cap at the side of the pitch at half-time in recognition for playing for his country on their 1967 tour of Asia and Oceania.

It was the 79-year-old’s first time back at Hampden since suffering a brain haemorrhage in 2018.

Sir Alex Ferguson watches on during a FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Scotland and Israel.

Skipper Andy Robertson, the Liverpool left-back, was also rewarded pre-match for reaching the milestone of 50 caps for Scotland.

There was only two changes to the starting  line-up that defeated Austria 1-0 in Vienna last month.

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay returned from injury and went into the right of a three man place with the suspended Grant Hanley (Norwich City) ruled out.

The only other change was the introduction of Rangers’ teenage wing-back Nathan Patterson for Motherwell’s Stephen O’Donnell.

Scotland created the first opportunity in the opening minute when Nathan Patterson’s low cross from the right found Che Adams central 12 yards out.

Israel’s Eran Zahavi and Jack Hendry in action in the World Cup qualifier at Hampden.

Adams controlled the ball in a pocket of space but he couldn’t get enough direction or power on the effort and it was straight at keeper Ofir Marciano.

Scotland went behind in the fifth minute when Patterson was dispossessed and Jack Hendry stepped out before clumsily diving into a reckless challenge on Eran Zahavi to give away a needless free kick in dangerous territory.

Zahavi stepped up and curled a superb 22 yard free kick above the defensive wall and beat diving keeper Craig Gordon.

It continued PSV Eindhoven striker Zahavi’s phenomenal international scoring record – he has scored 26 in 28 caps in the last three years.

After that early hammer blow Israel dominated possession and dictated the tempo as they pushed forward and threatened to double their advantage.

However in the 14th minute Kieran Tierney fired a long ball upfield from deep in the Scotland half to the onrushing Lyndon Dykes.

Eran Zahavi scores to make it 1-0 for Israel against Scotland.

The striker controlled the ball on his chest then broke into the box  beyond Nir Bitton and unleashed a shot that forced a save at the near post from Marciano.

Scotland equalised on the half hour mark with a fantastic goal as captain Robertson powered forward on the left and played a one two with Adams.

On receiving the return ball Robertson slid a pass to John McGinn who controlled the ball with his right before showing tremendous composure to curl in an exquisite goal from the edge of the penalty area.

It didn’t last as Israel hit back.

McTominay gave away a needless free kick 35 yards out when diving into a challenge.

Bibras Natcho hoisted a ball deep into the box that should have been defended – it wasn’t.

Scotland didn’t win the first ball into the box and also failed to win the second as Dor Peretz chested the ball goal-wards.

Scotland Manager Steve Clarke during the World Cup qualifier against Israel.

Keeper Gordon produced a superb diving save to deny but Munas Dabbur was well placed to convert from six yards at the back post.

Frustratingly as Gordon touched it out there were three unmarked Israelis waiting to bounce- where were the markers?

It was all too easy for Israel at the back three were being ripped apart.

Scotland were awarded a penalty in 44th minute when Marciano punched out a corner from McGinn to the edge of the box.

Billy Gilmour raced onto the ball to unleash a shot but Natcho went into the challenge and wiped him out. It was just inside the box.

Dykes failed to convert with an atrocious penalty that was weak and straight down the middle.

Keeper Marciano didn’t move and still easily saved.

Scotland’s Lyndon Dykes after missing a penalty against Israel.

Dykes had been fortunate when a poor spot kick in the 1-0 defeat of Austria in Vienna slid under the keeper.

This time his luck run out.

Half-time: Scotland 1 Israel 2

Scotland levelled in the 56th minute following the scoring incident going to VAR.

Robertson delivered a superb cross from the left and Dykes forced the ball over with a stabbed volley from 10 yards.

Ofri Arad dived to head the ball and his head was low. The goal was chalked off for perceived dangerous play.

However it went to VAR and after an agonising  wait the goal was reinstalled.

Scotland’s Lyndon Dykes scores to make it 2-2 against Israel at Hampden.

It was the second successive game Scotland had benefited from VAR as the penalty in the 1-0 defeat of Austria also came from a VAR decision.

Scotland nearly imploded yet again.

Terrible defending left Zahavi completely unmarked eight yards out. He was allowed a free header but Gordon produced a superb save to deny him.

Moments later Tierney crossed towards Dykes 10 yards out but the striker’s header was blocked by keeper Marciano.

Scotland’s Lyndon Dykes celebrates after scoring to make it 2-2

Scotland were pushing forward in a game that had become wide open and was enthralling.

Tierney had the ball in the net but referee Szymon Marciniak chalked it off for a soft foul by Dykes on keeper Marciano.

Marciano came out to collect a cross but fumbled and there was minimal contact by Dykes on the keeper  before the ball fell to Tierney who rolled in from six yards.

Scotland’s Lyndon Dykes celebrates after scoring to make it 2-2 against Israel.

In the 88th minute substitute Ryan Christie rolled a pass to McGinn 12 yards out but he shot straight at keeper Marciano.

He should have buried the glaring opportunity. If McGinn had displayed his normal composure it was the winner.

Scotland took a huge step towards the play-offs with a dramatic winner four minutes into injury time.

McGinn flighted in a corner kick that was flicked on by Hendry to McTominay who converted a priceless, golden goal at the back post.

It sparked wild goal celebrations.

Full-time: Scotland 3 Israel 2

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Gordon 7, McTominay 7, Hendry 7, Tierney 7, Patterson 7, McGinn 8, Gilmour 7, McGregor 7, Robertson 7, Adams (Christie 67), Dykes 7.

Subs: Kelly, McLaughlin, O’Donnell, McKenna, Ferguson, Cooper, Armstrong, Turnbull, Nisbet, Fraser, McLean.

ISRAEL (3-5-2): Marciano 8; Abaid 6, Bitton 6, Menachem 6, Arad 6 (Kinda 74) Dasa 6, Solomon 6 , Natcho 6 (Glazer 66), Peretz 7, Dabbur 6 (Weissman 66), Zahavi 7.

Subs: Peretz, Nitzan, Cohen, Gotlib, Shamir, Podgoreanu, Abada, Abu Hanna, Davidzada.

REFEREE: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)

MAN OF THE MATCH: John McGinn (Scotland)