Soccer News

UPDATE 1-Soccer-Joyous Scots sink Serbia to reach Euro 2020

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BELGRADE, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Scotland qualified for their first European Championship finals since 1996 after a 5-4 penalty shootout playoff win in Serbia with the match ending 1-1 after extra time in the Balkan nation’s capital on Thursday.

It was no more than the Scots deserved after dominating much of the contest, with their goalkeeper David Marshall emerging as the hero when he saved Serbia’s final spot-kick taken by Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Scotland will join the 24-nation tournament’s Group D including England, the Czech Republic and 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia, with matches in that pool to be played at Wembley and Hampden Park.

Scotland converted all their penalties before Serbia’s top scorer Mitrovic, who had a forgettable night as he was subdued by the visiting defence, aimed a tame shot into the bottom left corner at Red Star’s Rajko Mitic stadium.

Ryan Christie gave Scotland a 52nd-minute lead with a superb shot on the turn and then fired just wide in the 71st before substitute Luka Jovic equalised in the 90th when he headed home a Filip Mladenovic corner to force extra time.

Scotland had the upper hand in driving rain as they stifled out Serbia’s toothless 3-5-2 formation, with John McGinn forcing a good save from Serbia keeper Predrag Rajkovic in the first half while Sasa Lukic fired wide at the other end.

Andy Robertson missed a gilt-edged chance barely a minute before Christie struck and Serbia never looked like drawing level before Jovic popped up at the far post and beat Marshall with a downward header.

Galvanised by the late equaliser, Serbia pressed in extra time and nearly grabbed a winner when Marshall clawed out Nemanja Gudelj’s dipping shot from 25 metres, tipping it around the post.

Having beaten Israel on penalties at home to reach the playoff final, the Scots held their nerve again as Rajkovic never came close to saving any of their five spot-kicks.

Scotland mobbed each other in delight after a VAR check showed Marshall kept one foot on his goal line when he saved Mitrovic’s shot.

In contrast, a dejected Serbia trudged off into the tunnel, having missed an opportunity to reach their first European Championship finals as an independent nation. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)