They did it the hard way but Scotland held their nerve in a penalty shootout to reach their first major men’s finals since the 1998 World Cup in France.
David Marshall, the Derby goalkeeper, proved the hero, saving Alexsandar Mitrovic’s penalty to send Steve Clarke’s side to next summer’s delayed Euro 2020 finals, reports The Guardian.
Scotland had dominated normal time, leading through Ryan Christie’s brilliant goal before conceding a 90th minute equaliser, when Serbia’s £50m Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic, headed a leveller his side barely deserved.
As torrential rain cascaded down on Belgrade, Scotland looked instantly at home, initially dominating possession to such an extent that Serbia had reason for relief their 50,000 capacity stadium was virtually empty.
Reactive rather than remotely proactive, the hosts looked sluggish and strangely off the pace. Yet although their cause was not helped by the stray arm thrust into the face of John McGinn which earned Nikola Milenkovic a booking and ensured the left sided component of Serbia’s back three needed to watch his step, Aleksandar Mitrovic looked capable of ruffling the visiting assurance.
The Fulham centre-forward’s aerial prowess was already causing problems when Mitrovic held the ball up superbly before cueing up Sasa Lukic for a low drive which flew fractionally wide of David Marshall’s left hand post.
It swiftly became apparent that Motherwell’s Declan Gallagher, deployed at the heart of Clarke’s own back three, was destined to prove a key figure in one of the night’s principal sub-plots, namely his duel with Mitrovic. Clarke cannot have been overly delighted when, with half time beckoning and Gallagher standing impressively firm, the defender collected the softest of bookings.