A nerve-jangling second half followed a sedate first 45 minutes and then came extra-time – the first time for Scotland since 1961 when they lost to Czechoslovakia in a World Cup play-off.
Tension grew by the minute as the two sides continued to lock horns, with Liam Cooper hitting the post with the final action before Scotland’s first penalty shoot-out and glory.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) October 8, 2020
After John McGinn scored the first, Scotland keeper David Marshall saved from Eran Zahavi.
Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay and Lawrence Shankland all scored, as did Nir Bitton, Shon Weissman and Abu Fani, leaving substitute McLean – on for Stephen O’Donnell – to slot his penalty in for a 5-3 win.
Scotland travel to take on Serbia in the final on November 12, when they will look to get through to a finals for the first time since the 1998 World Cup finals in France.
It was quite a night.
Covid-19 had struck on the eve of Scotland’s most important match in years.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) October 8, 2020
Steve Clarke’s plans were left in disarray after Stuart Armstrong returned a positive test for the virus, with close contacts Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie required to self-isolate.
Scott McKenna, Liam Palmer and Oliver Burke were also out through various injuries and thus Clarke rang the changes.
Motherwell pair Declan Gallagher and O’Donnell joined the defence, with McGregor, McGinn and Ryan Jack returning to form a new three-man midfield, while Oli McBurnie was back to partner Lyndon Dykes in attack.
Israel boss Willi Ruttensteiner was also without a clutch of players due to the virus, but Celtic duo Hatem Elhamed and Bitton, who recovered from an ankle injury, were in the side again along with Hibernian keeper Ofir Marciano.
The home side had the first efforts on goal.
McGinn, with his weaker right foot, blazed a shot over the bar from a McBurnie knock down in the eighth minute, then skipper Andy Robertson curled a free-kick from 25 yards just past the post.
Israel were slick in transition and in the 21st minute McGregor’s timely block from Elhamed prevented his Celtic team-mate testing keeper Marshall from close range.
Israel slowly grew in confidence.
Bitton headed a Manor Solomon free-kick wide of the target, but five minutes from the break Scotland defender McTominay missed a great chance when he headed a Robertson corner off target from six yards.
The Scots could not impose themselves on their opponents as the game moved into the second half.
Israel defender Eyal Golasa curled a shot just over the bar in the 52nd minute as the visitors moved forward all too easily.
Then, after Jack scuffed a shot 10 yards from goal, there was a penalty shout by Scotland when the ball hit the arm of Eytan Tibi in the box, but Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan was unimpressed.
Despite the absence of fans, the tension grew.
Zahavi’s 25-yard drive in the 71st minute tested Marshall and at the other end Gallagher stretched to head a Robertson corner past the far post, before Elhamed’s drive deflected off McTominay and behind.
Then came extra time and the attrition continued.
McGregor’s goal-bound volley was blocked by Israel defender Eli Dasa before the teams turned around again.
Israel substitute Weissman just failed to get on the end of an Elhamed cross and then Cooper smacked the post with a header from a Robertson corner before penalties and victory for the Scots.