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Hat-trick hero Forrest turns up heat to fire Scots to glory

Scotland 3 Israel 2


Wing wizard: Scotland’s James Forrest celebrates last night

Wing wizard: Scotland’s James Forrest celebrates last night

Wing wizard: Scotland’s James Forrest celebrates last night

James Forrest scored a stunning Nations League hat-trick as Scotland overcame Israel 3-2 at Hampden Park to book a place in the play-off for the 2020 European Championship.

Alex McLeish's side needed victory to leapfrog the visitors to the top of Group C1, but former Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal stunned the home support in the ninth minute when curled in a shot from 30 yards.

However, Hoops winger Forrest, who had scored his first two Scotland goals in the 4-0 win over Albania on Saturday, notched twice in the first half before grabbing a third in the 64th minute from close range with another assured finish.

Midfielder Eran Zahavi reduced the deficit with a fearsome drive in the 75th minute and - amid a nervy finish - only a great save from Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor denied the visitors a late equaliser. Scotland finished with nine points from 12 and can park their play-off fixture until March 2020 and concentrate on the traditional European Championship qualifiers which take place in 2019.

"It was a great night," said winger Forrest. "It showed a lot of character that we kept going and we managed to get the goals.

"You need to be contributing either goals or assists and I'm delighted with the last couple of games to be doing that."

Hampden Park was only around half full on a wet and wild evening which appeared to dampen the ardour of the home side in the opening minutes when they fell behind.

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Kayal took a pass from Zahavi before firing high past McGregor.

Scotland soon began to build momentum, although their opponents remained threatening on the counter.

But, in the 34th minute, Forrest was on hand to fire past Harush after Stuart Armstrong's drive had been blocked.

The home fans came to life for the first time and their mood was further lifted when midfielder Ryan Christie ran on to a Steven Fletcher header and played in Celtic team-mate Forrest, who was again unerring in his powerful finish.

However, Hampden Park quietened again, but only until another incisive attack down the left which ended with Fraser cutting the ball back for Forrest to side foot in on 64 minutes.

It was still not over, however. An angled-drive from substitute Dia Seba slid past the far post to serve as a warning before Zahavi thundered a 20-yard drive past the flailing McGregor.

The game became increasingly nervy and, with three minutes remaining, McGregor made a wonder save from Tomer Hemed's close-range effort.

The Tartan Army cheered German referee Tobias Welz's final whistle after four added minutes with some gusto and can turn their attention to the European Championship qualifiers which begin next March.

SCOTLAND: McGregor, Paterson, Bates, McKenna, Robertson, Armstrong (Phillips, 76 mins), McGregor, Christie (Shinnie, 76 mins), Forrest, Fletcher (McTominay, 87 mins), Fraser.

Subs not used: Bain, Fleck, Hendry, Mackay-Steven, McBurnie, Russell, MacDonald.

ISRAEL: Harush, Yeini, Taha (Cohen, 67 mins), Ben Harush, Dasa, Peretz (Saba, 73 mins), Natcho, Kayal, Tawatha (Hemed, 85 mins), Dabbur, Zahavi.

Subs not used: Glazer, Habashi ,Tzedek, Sahar, Micha, Soloman, Haimov, Bitton, Amos.

Referee: Tobias Welz (Germany)

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