Scotland couldn’t find a way past Israel on their return to Hampden as the Nations League opener finished 1-1.
Ryan Christie handed the home team the lead with a late first half penalty but Eran Zahavi levelled for the away team with a fine strike 17 minutes from time to give the sides a share of the Nations League spoils.
November was the last time Steve Clarke’s side took to international action and the challenge for him was keeping the momentum. The national team had won three on the spin prior to the enforced period without international football.
There was a debut up top for Lyndon Dykes after his form at Livingston won him a move to QPR whilst Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay was slotted in at right centre-back, Kieran Tierney shoehorned in on the other side as Clarke opted for three centre-halfs.
It was a quiet opening to the game, Israel probably having the more light in the attacking third, but only really mustering a few corners. Scotland hadn’t really created much in the first 25 minutes as they looked to move through the gears.
A big chance fell to the visitors before half time, David Marshall doing well to deny Munas Dabbur after he created space in the box. Straight up the other did Scotland go and they earned a penalty, John McGinn fouled in the box by Eitan Tibi after a lovely knockdown from Dykes.
Christie stepped up to put the ball high into the net, a half with little action providing two big moments at the death. It was Scotland who were the beneficiaries as they headed into the second 45 with the advantage.
Israel were tight and well-organised in the first half but they had to come out more if they wanted anything from this one. Scotland did have the majority of possession during the opening 15 minutes of the half but Israel creeped back in.
They started venturing forward more, Eliazer Dasa whipping in a brilliant ball with no takers with 20 minutes to go. And then they did get a goal, Zahavi ghosting in behind and rifling a great effort past Marshall.
This gave Israel a second wind but they couldn’t net a winner as the game finished 1-1. A point each in the Nations League opener as Clarke is given a better taste of where his squad is at presently. Here are three things we learned.
Three at the back
Only one recognised centre-half was on the park for Scotland in Scott McKenna, United man McTominay and Arsenal star Tierney were deployed on either side of the Aberdeen defender. It was a move that will give Clarke some thinking.
McTominay has the physicality to deal with life at centre-back life although could be doing with getting to learn the role more. Tierney meanwhile has plenty of defensive qualities in his locker and was a standout in navy blue. It’ll take time to fully click, but this gives the Scots boss an idea of how the system works in defence.
From Palmerston to Hampden Park on international duty in 18 months, what a rise it has been for QPR’s new man. Dykes equipped himself well too on his first international match for Scotland.
His lay-off caused Tibi to bring down McGinn in the box and he pressed the Israeli backline all night. With little striker options to choose from, Dykes did enough to leave Clarke impressed on his first Hampden start.
Israel no mugs
These teams meet again next month in the Euro 2020 play-offs. That tie will be of much more significance than this event, but tonight, Israel showed that they will be no free pass for Scotland.
Clarke’s men were unable to find any real attacking spark, the penalty their only chance of the first half. Israel troubled the Scotland goal too on occasion and got their goal as a result. Willibald Ruttensteiner’s compact team showed that the Scots have a job on their hands to progress to the Euro 2020 play-off final.