CELTIC and Scotland hero Ryan Christie wept tears of joy in rain-lashed Belgrade last night.
The Hoops playmaker scored a superb goal as his nation drew 1-1 with Serbia after extra-time in the Euro Play-Off Final – and then claimed a dramatic triumph during a nerve-riddled penalty-kick shoot-out.
David Marshall saved the fifth effort from the Serb’s star man Aleksander Mitrovic after Parkhead pair Leigh Griffiths and Callum McGregor had been among the Scots to make no mistake with their efforts. Scott McTominay, Oli McBurnie and Kenny McLean also tucked their awards behind the helpless Padreg Rajkovic.
Christie thought he had struck the winning goal with a neat, low 20-yard drive in the in the 52nd minute, but a Luka Jovic stoppage-time equaliser forced an extra half-hour.
The Highlander was replaced in the closing stages of normal time and was forced to watch from the touchline as the winner-takes-all confrontation went to spot-kicks.
Marshall then produced a swallow dive to his left to push away Mitkovic’s well-hit shot – and Scotland were heading for the Euro Finals in June where they will meet England at Wembley and Croatia and the Czech Republic at Hampden.
It’s the first time since the World Cup Finals in France in 1998 the Scots have managed to reach the latter stages of a major tournament.
An emotional Christie, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “It is just an amazing night.
“From the start, we kind of believed. Obviously, the last few camps we have picked up so much belief in each other. Even the way the game went, conceding that late equaliser and still digging in. Penalties and you’re away from home, but big Marshy again comes up. He’s unbelievable.
“When you are on the pitch, you always feel like you can influence it. When you are off, you can’t watch. Those penalties are the worst thing I have ever been through. It’s just everything. Oh, I’m gone.
“It is just for the whole nation. It has been a horrible year for everyone. We knew coming into the game that we could give a little something to this country. I hope everyone back home is having a party tonight because we deserve it.
“We have been through so many years. We know it, you know it, everybody knows it. It’s a monkey off the back now. We are just going to move on from here.”