Scotland failed to add Nations League promotion to their momentous Euro 2020 qualification as they slipped to a limp defeat in Israel.
Matching the Czech Republic’s result at home to Slovakia would have elevated Steve Clarke’s men to League A.
But the Scots could not reach the level of their Euro play-off win over Serbia six days previously as Manor Solomon’s thudding strike condemned them to a second successive Group B2 loss.
The Czechs’ 2-0 win secured top spot.
Having followed qualification for their first finals in 23 years by losing in Slovakia to shatter their nine-game unbeaten run, Clarke’s team ended an historic week on a low in Netanya.
The potential World Cup play-off for Nations League group winners slipped through Scotland’s grasp as Israel exacted revenge for last month’s Euro play-off semi-final loss.
Having made eight changes in Slovakia, Clarke reverted to the starting line-up who had served him so well in Serbia.
That shootout success proved the Scots’ adeptness from 12 yards and they were screaming for a penalty in Netanya when Ryan Christie was clipped by Celtic team-mate Nir Bitton as he burst into the box, but Polish referee Pawel Raczkowski was unmoved.
It was a rare moment of early excitement between two sides who know each other inside-out, with this their fifth meeting in little over two years.
The tempo and cutting edge of recent Scotland performances was sorely lacking in a side looking jaded in the final tie of a gruelling triple-header. They did build up a head of steam as half-time approached as Stephen O’Donnell screwed wide before Ofir Marciano spectacularly clawed away John McGinn’s backward header from a Scott McTominay cross.
But it was Israel who found the breakthrough as Solomon was played in down the left, dropped the shoulder to leave McTominay floundering, and thumped a shot into the far corner.
Scotland needed a big turnaround. Yet Israel were inches from doubling their lead moments after the restart as Eran Zahavi flashed a shot narrowly past the post.
Clarke’s men kept plugging away and exerted a burst of promising pressure that culminated in Declan Gallagher failing to hit the target when he rose unchallenged.
With the Czechs 2-0 up before the hour, Scotland knew only victory would do. It never looked likely but wasn’t for a lack of trying. O’Donnell scuttled down the right and drew a diving save from Marciano, who then tipped over a miscued Kieran Tierney cross.
Eyal Golasa could have put the result beyond doubt had David Marshall not denied the substitute with a smart save with his legs.
Even a point proved beyond the Scots – a header from Scott McKenna rippled the side-netting and Leigh Griffiths fluffed a chance from eight yards – as they crashed back down to earth after the euphoric highs of Belgrade.
Man of the match – John McGinn
What did we learn?
Scotland need more goals and more options up front. They end the section having scored just five in six games and Lyndon Dykes is the only striker whose place in the squad is secure.
And while Euros qualification was the priority, back-to-back defeats has halted Scotland’s momentum at the wrong time, with a four-month break before the World Cup qualifying bid begins.
What did they say?
Scotland head coach Steve Clarke: “We shouldn’t forget how far we’ve come. But we also know how far we’ve got to go if we want to be regularly successful and regularly qualifying for tournaments.
“We have to be better, we have to improve.”
Scotland discover their 2022 World Cup qualifying opponents when the group-stage draw takes place on 7 December. The campaign then begins with a triple-header of ties between 24 and 31 March.
What the stats say
- Scotland have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last seven away games in all competitions, their longest such run since March 2013 (8 games).
- Israel have lost just one of their last five matches against Scotland (W2 D2 L1), after losing their first three encounters.
- Neither side has scored more than once in any of Scotland’s last six matches in all competitions (three scored, three conceded).
- Eran Zahavi has been directly involved in six of Israel’s seven goals in this season’s Uefa Nations League (five goals, one assist).
- 18MarcianoBooked at 90mins
- 12YeiniSubstituted forDganiat 78′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 6NatchoSubstituted forGolasaat 62′minutes
- 15LaviSubstituted forAbu Faniat 78′minutesBooked at 87mins
- 10SolomonSubstituted forCohenat 84′minutes
- 16Abu Fani
- 20Abu Hanna
- 2O’DonnellSubstituted forBurkeat 74′minutes
- 5GallagherSubstituted forMcKennaat 73′minutes
- 3RobertsonBooked at 90mins
- 7McGinnSubstituted forGriffithsat 62′minutes
- 8JackBooked at 85mins
- 10McGregorSubstituted forMcLeanat 82′minutes
- 9DykesSubstituted forMcBurnieat 61′minutes
- Pawel Raczkowski
Match ends, Israel 1, Scotland 0.
Andrew Robertson (Scotland) is shown the yellow card.
Second Half ends, Israel 1, Scotland 0.
Attempt saved. Leigh Griffiths (Scotland) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Orel Dgani (Israel) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Leigh Griffiths (Scotland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Orel Dgani (Israel).
Ofir Marciano (Israel) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Scott McKenna (Scotland) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Ryan Christie with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Scotland. Conceded by Ofir Marciano.
Attempt saved. Leigh Griffiths (Scotland) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Attempt missed. Scott McKenna (Scotland) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Kenny McLean with a cross following a set piece situation.
Mohammad Abu Fani (Israel) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Mohammad Abu Fani (Israel).
Ryan Christie (Scotland) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. Nir Bitton (Israel) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Ryan Jack (Scotland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Shon Weissman (Israel) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ryan Jack (Scotland).
Substitution, Israel. Yonatan Cohen replaces Manor Solomon.