Scotland reaches Euro 2020 after penalty shootout win over Serbia

Scotland reached its first European Championship finals since 1996 after a 5-4 penalty shootout win over Serbia in Belgrade.

Scotland players celebrate their victory at the Rajko Mitic stadium in Belgrade on Thursday. - AP

Scotland reached its first European Championship finals since 1996 after a 5-4 penalty shootout win in Serbia with the match ending 1-1 after extra time in the Balkan nation’s capital on Thursday.

Scotland converted all its penalties and mobbed each other after its goalkeeper David Marshall saved the home side’s final spot kick, diving to his left to keep out Aleksandar Mitrovic’s shot.

90th minute equaliser

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

ALSO READ | Slovakia reaches Euro 2020

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

'Unbelievable' - Steve Clarke

Scotland manager Steve Clarke said he was overjoyed to give the Scottish people something to cheer about during “a difficult time for the nation” amid the COVID-19 pandemic after it beat Serbia to reach Euro 2020.

“Its a very difficult time for Scotland because of the coronavirus pandemic and we spoke before the game about the chance to put a smile on their faces,” Clarke told a news conference.

“We know what we have achieved and what we had set out to achieve. Unbelievable, the character the players have shown. It would have been easy to crumble after conceding in the last minute of regular time from set play, but we dug in.

“We've been building towards this moment and tonight the players and the nation can be proud of themselves.”

Ryan Christie gave Scotland a 52nd-minute lead and the visitors missed several chances before Serbia substitute Luka Jovic headed an equaliser in the dying seconds of regular time.

Both sides wasted chances in extra time before Scotland keeper David Marshall saved Serbia's final penalty in the shootout from Aleksandar Mitrovic to send his side through.

'Deserved the win'

Marshall revealed the officials had told him to put his celebrations on hold as there was a VAR check for encroachment when Mitrovic took the penalty.

“Immediately after the save the referee said 'don't celebrate yet because there is a VAR check',” he said.

“All you can do is pray because the lads were already celebrating. We deserved the win and we are delighted for all the fans and our families who couldn't be here.”

 

'Monkey off the back' - Ryan Christie

Scotland midfielder Ryan Christie said qualifying for the team's first European Championship finals since 1996 was a “monkey off the back” in an emotional interview after Thursday's penalty shootout victory over Serbia.

“I hope everyone back home is having a party tonight. We've been through it so many years. We know it, you know it, everyone knows it and it's a monkey off the back now. We're going to move on from here,” a teary-eyed Christie told Sky Sports.

“It's just for everything. I'm gone... for the whole nation, it's been a horrible year for everyone and we knew we could give a little something to this country.

“It's an amazing night.”

Christie, who was substituted in the 87th minute, said the team showed great character to book a place in the 24-nation tournament where it will face England, Czech Republic and Croatia in Group D next year.

“The way the game went tonight, conceding that late equaliser, we dug in and then penalties away from home and big Marsh comes up. Amazing, unbelievable,” he added.

“When you're on the pitch and you feel you can impact it, but the moment you're off you can't watch it. It's horrible, those penalties are probably the worst thing I've ever been through.”