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Scotland look for clinical edge to secure Nations League promotion

Slovakia v Scotland – UEFA Nations League – League B – Group 2 – City Arena
(Image credit: Martin Baumann/TASR)

Scotland face Israel on Wednesday knowing that they need to find a clinical edge to get the win they might need to top their Nations League group.

A five-match winning streak came to an end with a 1-0 defeat in Slovakia on Sunday but Scotland could have won comfortably if they had taken even a reasonably modest portion of their chances.

Marek Rodak, Fulham’s second-choice goalkeeper, pulled off stunning stops from Kenny McLean and Leigh Griffiths, who both had other more difficult chances.

Slovakia goalkeeper Marek Rodak took the acclaim

Slovakia goalkeeper Marek Rodak took the acclaim (Martin Baumann/TASR)

Stuart Armstrong, Liam Palmer and Ryan Christie also had opportunities and Oli McBurnie passed up three good openings to net his first international goal.

Before the match, manager Steve Clarke had dismissed suggestions he might have concerns over their goalscoring record, which now stands at six goals in seven matches this season.

He is still unlikely to be concerned about it given the plethora of chances his players created in Trnava and he will have Lyndon Dykes available after suspension in Netanya.

Scotland are likely to need three points to clinch Group B2 given that Czech Republic, who are one point adrift, host bottom team Slovakia having already beaten their neighbours 3-1 on the road.

Kieran Tierney impressed in Slovakia

Kieran Tierney impressed in Slovakia (Martin Baumann/TASR)

And defender Kieran Tierney believes being more clinical could be the key to their success.

“We know how good Israel can be, we know it’s going to be a tough game,” the Arsenal defender told the Scotland National Team Twitter account after the game.

“We are going to give it our best shot. If we play like Sunday then hopefully we can do that, just add goals to our game.

“You win or learn and we will learn a lot from Sunday and hopefully be more clinical if we get chances.

Leigh Griffiths came close in stoppage-time

Leigh Griffiths came close in stoppage-time (Martin Baumann/TASR)

“To come away with nothing was quite harsh on us. I thought we did well, we created chances. You can’t really fault us in any way except the lack of goals.

“We were playing with confidence, we were on a high. We were unlucky to be fair. We pressed well.

“They are a good team, they were good playing from the back, they broke our press a few times and I think that led to the goal. It’s stuff we need to learn and I’m sure we will, we need to watch the videos back.

“We can’t dwell on it too long because we have another big game.”

Much was made of Scotland’s post-match celebrations after their Euro 2020 play-off win in Serbia three days earlier, which continued long into the morning.

But Tierney insisted they were not the type of team to dwell on their achievement and the performance did not have the air of a side who were suffering from any lethargy.

“You are only as good as your last game,” he said. “You don’t want to live off a few days ago forever.

“It’s a great achievement, the nation gave us all the credit we deserve, but we wanted to go out there and win and we didn’t do that.”

Tierney could be asked to play his third game in six days with Andy Robertson struggling with a hamstring issue, although Celtic left-back Greg Taylor is available.

A number of players who started in Belgrade before being rested in Slovakia are likely to return, including David Marshall, Declan Gallagher, Callum McGregor and Ryan Jack.

Top spot could potentially give Scotland access to one of two World Cup play-off places on offer from the Nations League, while promotion to the top tier would enhance their chances of making Euro 2024.

Most of the countries in League A are likely to qualify automatically so Scotland could have access to a play-off spot more readily if needed.