McLean the spot kick hero for the Scots as City pair edge closer to the Euros
- Credit: PA
Norwich City midfielder Kenny McLean held his nerve to score the decisive spot-kick as Scotland beat Israel 5-3 on penalties to win their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final at Hampden Park on Thursday night, after the tie had finished goalless following extra-time.
After John McGinn scored the first, Derby 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 to set up a trip to Serbia on November 12.
“It was a bit of a pressure penalty, considering the circumstances,” said the Norwich midfielder. “But do you know what? I actually felt pretty confident. Marshy had done all the hard work to get us in front. At the start of the shoot out, when I knew I was fifth, I actually said to him just give me a chance to score the winner.
“He did. It was good to score the winner. After every training session we hit a penalty each. I went the same side in every training session and you get a feel for where you want to put it. The result was everything. We have spoken about it so much. We are so grateful. The boys put in a hell of a shift. Right now we can enjoy this result. It is a great feeling for everyone.
“We have some other games between now and Serbia. That is something to look forward to. It is a great group of boys and a pleasure to be involved in a situation like this.”
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Clarke paid a glowing tribute to his squad as they look to get through to a finals for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France.
“When you do everything and the build up - and I think we did that, even with one or two little distractions - you get your rewards,” said the Scotland chief, who had to deal with a positive COVID-19 test for Stuart Armstrong and then losing both Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie who were forced to self-isolate as a result of the same episode. “Obviously David Marshall made a really good save. We got lucky with John McGinn’s first one but he said that’s where he aimed for.
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“You have to enjoy the moment but it’s another step towards hopefully making a bit of history for the country.
“Qualification for Euro 2020 is still in our hands. We’ve got a tough game away to Serbia next month but it’s one we’ll look forward to after we’ve played Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
“Serbia or Norway, it was always going to be a difficult game away from home. But we go there with every confidence.”
Marshall had defied Norwich at Carrow Road last weekend and was again in obdurate mood.
“I don’t think it was the greatest game to watch if I’m honest but penalties are always traumatic, especially with how much the game meant and was worth to us,” he told Sky Sports.
“It was just the bonus that we could get the job done and to score five penalties was testament to the lads, who were great.
“We did research last month. Credit to Woodsy (Stephen Woods), the goalie coach. I managed to save the first one which gave us something to go on.
“We were pretty confident that was where the first penalty was going. I got close to three or four so that’s down to the research.
“And it probably just gave the lads the confidence to go on and get it done.”
McLean’s club mate, Michael McGovern, also took a step closer qualification to next year’s delayed European Championships when Northern Ireland triumphed 4-3 in their penalty shoot out in Bosnia, after the game ended 1-1.
McGovern was an unused substitute but Jamal Lewis played the whole game for Northern Ireland who needed Niall McGinn’s second half goal to get back on levels terms after Rade Krunic put the hosts ahead in the 13th minute.
Northern Ireland will now host Slovakia next month, who edged the Republic of Ireland 4-2 on penalties after a goalless affair in their semi-final play-off tie.