For much of the last 30 years any satisfaction Scotland fans have derived from international football has stemmed from penalty shoot-outs.
The void created by a 22 year absence from major finals has been filled by petty glee after repeated England failures from 12 yards.
On Thursday night David Marshall finally gave the Tartan Army something positive to cheer. Before this game Eran Zahavi was the man Scotland feared most. Marshall’s outstanding stop from the PSV goalscorer at the beginning of a tortuous passage of sudden death drama was the catalyst for the Scots securing a Euro 2020 play-off final against Serbia in Belgrade next month.
Scotland's Euro 2020 dreams live on after Steve Clarke's side squeezed past Israel
Make no mistake. This was a game of such low quality it caused stigmata of the eyes. After a testing covid-19 disrupted build-up, however, the final outcome was all that mattered.
Largely outplayed by Israel for long spells Scotland were forced to play their first 30 minutes of extra-time in 59 years. A 4-2 defeat to Czechoslovakia in a play off for the the World Cup Finals of 1962 ended in hearbreak and anguish.
And when Leeds defender Liam Cooper crashed a header from Andrew Robertson’s corner off the upright in the final act of extra-time you feared this might finish the same way.
Marshall’s sprawling save from Zahavi changed the narrative. John McGinn’s first spot kick squirmed under Ofir Marciano and the Scots grew in confidence. Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay and Lawrence Shankland showed immense composure. Handed the decisive kick as a spartan Hampden fell into hushed silence, substitute Kenny McLean kept hopes of a first appearance at a major finals since 1998 alive.
Substitute Kenny McLean scored the decisive penalty for Scotland in the shootout
To reach the promised land Scotland will have to play better than this. Scotland’s National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch spoke of extending the pub curfew if the game went to extra-time. As the home nation laboured to overcome a glaring inability to pass the ball, alcohol was the only anaesthetic for a night of painful viewing at times.
There was mitigation for much of that. The loss of Stuart Armstrong, Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie left the Scotland manager bereft of options. With Tierney self isolating and Scott McKenna and Liam Palmer injured this was bare bones stuff.
Even so the lack of technical craft and attacking guile here was alarming at times. Scotland’s saving grace for long spells was a makeshift defence sturdier than anyone thought possible and Marshall’s outstanding prowess from penalties.
Strikers Lyndon Dykes and Oli McBurnie operated on scraps in attack, the £20million man once again belying his price tag by making it ten games without an international goal.
Motherwell’s Stephen O’Donnell came in at right wing-back, Israel exposing Scotland’s right flank at will. That Scotland have weaknesses is a surprise to no one. To see them exposed by an Israel side deeply unfortunate to lose as they did was a painful business.
Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall dives to save a penalty from Israel's Eran Zehavy
Chasing their first appearance at a finals since 1970 Israel travelled without a number of Maccabi Tal Aviv players. The scale of the problems facing the visitors was summed up by Celtic right back Hatem Elhamed playing on the left side, while The sight of Nir Bitton in the