How Scotland fans brought back the Hampden Roar and played their part in win over Israel
By the end it had evolved into the kind of party that only those devoid of a footballing soul would ever want to miss.
From the oohs to the aahs, the boos to the jubilation, the hysteria to the anguish they provided a passionate and non-stop backing track as Steve Clarke’s men played out a dramatic 3-2 win over Israel.
The first sell-out since Slovakia turned up for a World Cup qualifier in October 2017 and bestowed a 1-0 victory on the home side courtesy of Martin Skrtel’s own goal, this was an evening when the Hampden Roar could not be muted.
Fully engaged from start to finish they helped Scotland to raise their game and fight all the way to their stoppage time winner which allowed them to extend their lead over Israel in the chase for second place in Group F.
Against Moldova, 40,869 had watched Scotland engineer a 1-0 win. But, a similar scoreline away to Austria meant that number would soar.
From the minute John McGinn used his backside to see out that triumph there was a scrabble to be at the national stadium for this one and when he greeted the final whistle by volleying the ball into the air, the only thing higher was the country’s soaring expectations.
Some fans queued for more than an hour to book tickets online but every minute of that wait proved worthwhile in the end, even if their own team and Israel combined to put them through the wringer in the first half.
It was the teams’ seventh meeting in three years, but despite their familiarity with the venue, Israel will never have seen it rock the way it did last night. It wasn’t just the size of the crowd, it was the volume, the passion and the collective determination to will the team on.
The entry issues which saw fans dribble in well after kick-off against Moldova, were not repeated and the vast majority of bums were on seats by the time the players emerged from the tunnel.
Leading them out, captain Andy Robertson remained steely-faced as they were bombarded by carnival music and a light show. But it wasn’t simply noise the home side were bombarded with, it was the audible representation of burgeoning hope and belief.
Boos and shouts of ‘Scotland, Scotland’ almost drowned Israel’s national anthem but they paled when compared to the bombastic rendition of Flower of Scotland, which earned the fans the players’ applause and respect before a ball had even been kicked.
While the team struggled to get into top gear in the first half, the crowd tried to repel the visitors through sheer strength of will. Keeping the decibel level high and the contributions positive, they rattled through the songbook. Recent favourites detailing their boogie capabilities, and those extolling the virtues of both John McGinn and Scott McTominay were wheeled out but, as though sensing that Scotland are turning back the clock, with qualification for consecutive major finals still a strong possibility, they dug into the archives for more of the traditional options.
It signalled the Tartan Army’s new, blended demographic with a new generation of Scotland fans becoming enthralled by the national team and the return of some of the battle scarred veterans, who have had their faith restored.
That belief was tested when Eran Zahavi sent his free-kick past Craig Gordon. But as the Israeli goalscorer spun away, finger to his lips, there was no chance of silencing this crowd.
Too invested for that, while they were momentarily stunned, they soon raised the volume once more.
There were murmurs of disquiet from the stands as the fans in that east stand collectively and audibly tried to direct play, frustrated that the visitors were being granted too much space round the box.
But every venture over the halfway line prompted the roars to build, reaching a crescendo as anyone bore down on goal.
If the Tartan Army were able to cheer the ball beyond former Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano, Scotland would have been well ahead instead they were still looking for an equaliser.
Bursts of volume that battered the brain like a heavyweight’s punches meant the Scots couldn’t switch off and ensured that Israel were kept on their toes, if not on their feet.
Munas Dabbur invited the wrath of the home support when he went down theatrically in the centre circle to a chorus of boos that were delivered with a ferocity that made one fear for the lad’s safety should he miraculously get up and shake it off. He showed wisdom to stay down for a while, unlike Ofri Arad a few minutes later and he felt the condemnation of the Hampden crowd as a consequence.
Even when Billy Gilmour earned a penalty, which Lyndon Dykes took and Marciano saved, the 12th man continued to make their presence felt.
And joy was unconfined, when John McGinn scored. But ‘We’ve got McGinn, super John McGinn’ was still midflow by the time they went behind again and there was a sense that doubt may be creeping in.
Those worries were dispelled when Dykes found the net and while the initial decision to cut short the celebrations and chalk it off ignited anger in the stands and on the pitch, when VAR came to Scotland’s rescue, it kickstarted a second, longer-lasting bout of euphoria.
But, in scenes reminiscent of Leigh Grffith’s famous second free-kick goal against England, the place went bonkers in stoppage time as McTominay bundled home his exhilarating, intoxicating winner. There was bedlam in the packed stands. Then the final whistle sounded and the party really got going.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.