—- Scotland and Northern Ireland are one game away from qualifying for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament after both won their single-leg play-off semi-finals on penalties.
The Scots’ Euro 2020 dreams live on after Steve Clarke’s side squeezed past Israel 5-4 in their first-ever penalty shootout after a goalless draw at Hampden.
There was little between the teams during 120 minutes of tense action and so spot-kicks were required to decide who will go on to face Serbia in next month’s play-off final.
It was the visitors who blinked first as David Marshall saved Eran Zahavi’s opening effort for Israel.
Play-off semi-finals: Georgia 1, Belarus 0; Bulgaria 1, Hungary 3; Iceland 2, Romania 1; Bosnia-Herzegovina 1, N Ireland 1 (3-4 pens, aet); Slovakia 0, Rep. Ireland 0 (4-2 pens, aet); Norway 1, Serbia 2 (aet); Scotland 0, Israel 0 (5-3 pens, aet); N Macedonia 2, Kosovo 1.
With John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay and Lawrence Shankland all converting, it was left to Kenny McLean to fire home the decisive kick which ensures Scotland go to Belgrade with hopes of reaching a first major tournament since 1998 alive and kicking.
McGinn hopes Scotland’s shoot-out win over Israel will help lift the coronavirus gloom hanging over the country.
The Aston Villa midfielder, who saw his penalty just about beat former Hibernian team-mate Ofir Marciano, told Sky Sports: “There was four good penalties and one which squirmed in but we’ll take it.
“It was a horrible game, a nervy one and without the Tartan Army you know it’s going to be tough for everyone.
“It’s really tough for everyone in Scotland right now but hopefully that’s given everyone a wee lift.”
Liam Boyce fired Northern Ireland into a Euro 2020 qualifying play-off final against Slovakia as they beat Bosnia-Herzegovina in a penalty shoot-out in Sarajevo.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell saved from Haris Hajradonovic and Edin Visca hit the crossbar before Northern Ireland emerged from their first ever penalty shoot-out 4-3 winners thanks to Boyce’s strike.
It means Northern Ireland will have a chance to book a ticket to the rearranged Euro 2020 finals next month in Belfast when they face Slovakia, who saw off the Republic of Ireland in a shoot-out in Bratislava.
It was a dramatic finish to a tense night in Sarajevo, where Rade Krunic fired the Bosnians into an early lead before Niall McGinn levelled for the visitors eight minutes into the second half.
Bosnia were roared on by around 1,500 fans allowed into the Stadion Grbavica but victory would go to the visitors, a first win in charge for Ian Baraclough coming at the perfect moment and a glorious way for Steven Davis to mark his record-breaking 120th cap.
McGinn said on Sky Sports: “First and foremost it’s unbelievable, what a feeling personally to get a goal to get us back in the game. It was sheer determination, the work ethic within the squad, the team spirit was brilliant.
“For the boys to step up and take the penalties, unbelievable. What a night. We got the support from back home and everything has been great. This was definitely for the fans.
“We didn’t get the best of starts, we were under pressure. It’s a tough place to come, they’ve got lots of good players but the character we showed…we knew we had to group together at half-time but we started the second half well.
“I was getting a bit of joy down the left and I was there in the right place at the right time and slotted it away. I’m delighted to score but more importantly put us one step closer.”
Alan Browne and Matt Doherty suffered penalty shoot-out misery as the Republic of Ireland bowed out of the Euro 2020 play-offs in agonising fashion against Slovakia in Bratislava.
Stephen Kenny’s men created the better chances in the game which ended 0-0 after extra-time, during which substitute Browne hit the post, but went down 4-2 on penalties.
As a result, it is Slovakia who will meet Northern Ireland in next month’s final and the Republic will not get to play in a finals tournament for which Dublin is one of the host cities.
Browne and Conor Hourihane both might have won it, although it took a fine goal-line clearance by skipper Shane Duffy from substitute Lukas Haraslin to ensure the tie went all the way.
Ultimately, it came to a test of nerve and character, of which the Republic have long held abundant supplies, but it was not to be their night as Marek Hamsik, Patrik Hrosovsky, Haraslin and Jan Gregus scored from the spot, a feat only Hourihane and Robbie Brady could match.