Scotland manager Alex McLeish has admitted his side have to pick up the pieces after a dire second-half display in Israel last night put their play-off qualifying hopes in serious jeopardy.
Scotland were booed off by some visiting fans after falling to their first competitive defeat in nearly two years. John Souttar was sent off with half an hour to go after a second bookable offence. The Hearts defender’s flailing arm struck Israel danger man Munas Dabbur in the face.
“I thought it was soft,” said McLeish. “The ref was about 60 yards away, not up with play. Maybe he had something [advice] in his ear. We were ready to take John off. It was ill-timed.”
A penalty from Charlie Mulgrew put Scotland ahead in the first half but they were rarely comfortable in the heat of Haifa.
An own goal from Kieran Tierney with 15 minutes left condemned Scotland to defeat after Dor Peretz had equalised shortly after half-time. Israel also struck the woodwork twice while goalkeeper Allan McGregor made several superb stops .
“We had a great performance against Albania, a good win,” said McLeish. “We have to pick it up, simple as that. That’s what it’s like in football, you go on to the next one. We are obviously going to get a bit of stick for this and it’s up to us to bounce back, that’s what I expect from Scottish people. I will look to win both games [left in the group] but whatever it takes [to qualify]. No player is happy about losing.
“They are all gutted in there. Young John [Souttar] is devastated. Young players are allowed to make mistakes. In international football you get punished for mistakes. It’s doom and gloom. We now face the consequences of losing. We suffer a bit. I have been in the game long enough to know that.”
McLeish was asked about the supporters, many of whom barracked the players – and manager – at the end. “The fans want us to win,” he said. “We are right behind the fans. They give the players energy. I urge the fans to support the players.”
Scotland can still overcome this setback, but losing to a team ranked 94th in the world and who had won only once in their last 10 outings is hardly likely to raise confidence.
All three teams in C1 sit on three points after two games played. Israel play Albania at home on Sunday in a qualifier while Scotland take on Portugal in a tough-looking friendly at Hampden Park.