Serbia 1 Scotland 1 (aet): Scots reach first major finals for 22 years as Mitrovic misses shootout penalty

THE wait is OVER – Scotland are going to a major finals!

For 22 years the Tartan Army have watched some of the world's best teams do battle at European Championships and World Cups.




Well now it is our turn to strut our stuff on a tournament for the first time since France 1998.

Ryan Chrisite's second half strike looked to be the decisive moment for Scotland only for Luka Jovic to nod home in the last minute to take it to extra-time and then penalties.

But the Scotland players netted their five spot-kicks, with David Marshall brilliantly saving Aleksander Mitrovic's effort with Serbia's last penalty.

It was a night when players had to stand up and be counted and everyone of the players wearing dark blue done it when needed.

The play-off heartaches are now in the past as the country gear up for next summer's European Championships.

Boss Clarke made three changes to the side who defeated the Czech Republic 1-0 at Hampden last month.

Captain Andy Robertson returned after sitting out last time due to suspension, while Kieran Tierney and Christie were also handed starts.

Ryan Fraser missed out through injury, while Andy Considine had to settle for a place on the bench with Greg Taylor not making the matchday squad.


Celtic star Callum McGregor – earning his 25th cap – was tasked with protecting the back four alongside Rangers' Ryan Jack.

Scotland started on the front foot and forced the hosts back with the first chance falling to the visitors when John McGinn was upended 25-yards from goal, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic picking up a booking.

In the heavy rain Christie tried his luck but keeper Predrag Rajkovic smothered it easily.

Serbia were next to threaten on 23 minutes as some neat build up play saw the ball laid off to Sasa Lukic.

The Torino ace tried to bend his shot into the bottom right hand corner but thankfully for Scotland it dropped the wrong side of the post.

Motherwell defender Declan Gallagher then did well to block Aleksander Mitrovic a chance as Serbia continued to look for the opener.

The first clear opening of the second period came four minutes after the restart.

Stephen O'Donnell's long ball found Lyndon Dykes who did well to hold it up before teeing up skipper Robertson.

You fancied him to work the keeper but the Liverpool defender got it all wrong.



But on 51 minutes Christie showed him how it is done.

McGregor intercepted a Serbian clearance and passed it to his Parkhead team-mate on the edge of the box.

There appeared to be nowhere to go but he managed to work it onto his left-foot and fire a low shot in off the post past the despairing dive of Rajkovic.

McGregor and Jack had been so disciplined in the centre of the park and after creating one he almost doubled the lead on 69 minutes.

The midfielder found a yard of space 25-yards out and let fly only for his shot to flash just wide.

The action then sprung to the other end where Milinkovic-Savic's close range header hit the side netting – much to Scotland's relief.

Still the goalmouth action wasn't over as Christie had another chance as he worked the ball onto his right foot but again his shot just went the wrong side of the post with the keeper beaten.

It was becoming backs to the walls, with the likes of Gallagher, Dykes and Jack providing superb defensive blocks.

With five minutes left Jovic saw his header fly just inches past the post as the Tartan Army breathed a sigh of relief.

But the painful moment came in the final minute as the equaliser arrived.

The corner came in and Jovic was somehow unmarked to send a header down past David Marshall, meaning extra-time lay ahead.

Scotland keeper Marshall produced a top drawer save nine minutes into the first half of extra-time as Gudelj blasted for goal but it was tipped round the post.

Tiredness seemed to have got the better of the Scotland squad and they were camped in for long spells.

With three minutes left Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths was sent on to try and provide a last gasp moment of magic.

But it went to spot-kicks and who could hold their nerve better.

Griffiths, McGregor, Scott McTominay, Oli McBurnie and then Kenny McLean did their parts, with the first four Serbians's matching them.

But Fulham hitman Mitrovic saw his shot from 12-yards brilliantly saved by Derby keeper Marshall and the dream had become a reality.





 

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