A Kieran Tierney own goal condemned shambolic 10-man Scotland to a bruising Nations League defeat in Israel.
Against a side ranked 94th in the world, and with just one win in their past 10 games, Alex McLeish’s men let a lead slip in a sobering second half.
The Scots were ahead at the break in Haifa but eventually conceded twice and had John Souttar sent off.
At the halfway stage of the Nations League group, Scotland, Israel and Albania all have three points.
Scotland – ranked 39th in the world – looked on their way to claiming their second win in League C when Charlie Mulgrew slammed home from the spot after Steven Naismith had been fouled.
However, Dor Peretz’s goal and a shanked clearance from Celtic left-back Tierney gave the hosts – who have beaten only Liechtenstein and Andorra at home since 2014 – the win they thoroughly deserved.
Scotland are away to the Albanians – who they beat 2-0 at Hampden – before closing their group campaign at home against Israel next month.
‘They should have been embarrassed by more’
Scotland’s tails ought to have been up on the back of a good win over Albania, and McLeish had indicated he wanted to take the game to the Israelis.
But the opposite was true. Scotland looked like a team of strangers and found themselves on the back foot more or less from the get-go.
Israel, apparently bereft of confidence going into the match, sliced through the Scots at will. But, incredibly, they found themselves behind when Naismith was barged in the penalty area by Peretz and Mulgrew emphatically converted the penalty.
Otherwise, it was all Israel and only Allan McGregor stood between the home side and a handsome lead.
The goalkeeper saved well from Peretz twice and from Beram Kayal – who should have scored. Ben Sahar also hit a post as Scotland struggled badly to perform in the 3-5-2 shape McLeish demanded.
The visitors’ failings in the wing-back areas were underlined by the equaliser. Stephen O’Donnell was caught on the wrong side of Taleb Twatha and, when he fed Peretz, the midfielder was able to evade Andy Robertson to squeeze the ball past McGregor.
When a lackadaisical backpass from Souttar then forced the defender to tug at Munas Dabbur, the Hearts defender was shown his second yellow card and Scotland’s evening took another downward turn.
That was exacerbated when another unforgivable loss of possession outside Scotland’s penalty area allowed Kayal to flash the ball across goal and the unfortunate Tierney – out of sorts at centre-back – sliced it past his helpless keeper.
The scoreline could have been substantially more embarrassing. McGregor had further excellent saves from Bibras Natcho and Dia Seba, while Twatha hit the bar from four yards out.
Tinkered, tired and toiling – analysis
This was a massive backwards step by Scotland. McLeish had kept faith with the 11 players who performed admirably against Albania, but only McGregor earned pass marks in Haifa.
The manager’s decision to persist with a formation that had served him well against the Albanians, despite players playing out of position, came spectacularly unstuck.
On numerous occasions, players came across to the sidelines as McLeish tried in vain to tweak the shape to cope with the lively Israelis.
But the Scots also looked tired. It’s easy to be wise after the fact, but a long day of travelling yesterday, a late arrival and delayed training session looked like they might have taken their toll.
If that wasn’t the reason for such an off-colour performance, the manager must quickly establish what was.
- Scotland have now lost three consecutive away games for the first time since October 2012.
- Israel recorded their first win over Scotland, having lost their previous three.
- This was Scotland’s first competitive defeat since losing 3-0 to England in November 2016.
- Four of Scotland’s seven shots were attempted by Callum McGregor (57%).
- Charlie Mulgrew’s penalty opener was his third Scotland goal, and first since May 2014 in a friendly against Nigeria.