Scotland’s braves did it the hard way as they marched into the European Championship finals with an incredible display of courage and resilience.
David Marshall was the hero as he saved the final penalty in the tensest of shoot-outs at the end of a pulsating play off, to give his nation victory and the ultimate prize of a place alongside England in Group D at the finals next summer.
But the entire Scotland side were truly heroic as they somehow recovered from the cruellest of blows of conceding a Serbia equaliser in the very last minute of normal time, to pick themselves up off the canvas and deliver that stunning shoot out triumph.
Marshall typified that steely mentality, as he produced a stunning save in extra time from a vicious swerving Nemanja Gudelj shot to somehow get his country to that heart-stopping penalty drama at the end.
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And with Scotland scoring all five of their penalties, it left the Derby keeper with the chance to produce a moment of history, and he didn’t disappoint, with a brilliant save from Serbia’s goalscoring machine Aleksandar Mitrovic.
There was an agonising second, as the keeper looked over to the referee for confirmation that the save was allowed by VAR’s scrutiny, and then an explosion when the whistle went to confirm the victory, which saw the Scots swarm him in the goal.
And afterwards, he admitted he was close to tears at such a seismic result, which will give the whole nation a lift, and deliver a first major finals for Scotland since 1998.
“To come back the way we did after that goal at the end, and I am just lost for words how the lads came through that pressure,” he said.
“We were down, but Robbo (Andy Robertson) was speaking at the end, and it just changes everything. I don’t know how we’ve done it, but we deserved it, and I’m just so happy that we have.”
Many of the Scots were left in tears as they took in what they achieved, but they couldn’t have chosen a harder route, as they dominated the game, and thought they’d won it, with a stunning goal from man of the match Ryan Christie whose cultured skills looked likely to be the difference between the two sides for so long.
His goal after 52 minutes was fitting for such an occasion, the 25 year old taking Callum McGregor’s beautifully disguised pass on the edge of the box, and then executing a balletic turn to guide a sweet shot into the corner of the net off the left hand upright.
But as Steve Clarke’s side desperately clung on in the final breathless seconds, Serbia ruled themselves to snatch one final corner, allowing Filip Mladenovic to swing in a cross from the right.
For the only time on the night, the Scots defence lost concentration and Real Madrid’s Luca Jovic rose above Scott McTominay to somehow crash his header down into the turf and over David Marshall to level.
From there, inevitably Scotland tired but they never once lost heart or spirit, and they fought like true braves to reach that penalty shoot out…and then showed nerves of steel to produce the ultimate fairytale at the end of a night that will go down in history,
And afterwards, skipper Andy Robertson revealed his pride at his team. “I am so, so proud of all of them. I can’t even describe what we are feeling.
“What a night, tears everywhere, but these lads deserve it. It was so tough conceding like we did so late, but we needed spirit, and we showed it – and you always back Marshy to save one.
“Two games at Hampden lie ahead in the finals, and England in the group, and I really hope we can have fans there for that. I hope everyone parties at home tonight. I don’t even want to think about what we have done because I’ll probably cry, but it is so special.”