STRACHAN’S SCOTS THUMPED BY CLINICAL ENGLAND
England and Scotland wore black bands during their match on Remembrance Day, despite FIFA’s ruling. Gareth Southgate increased his chances of becoming England’s full-time manager, and increased the pressure on Scotland boss Gordon Strachan, as The Three Lions won comfortably at Wembley.
Gareth Southgate kept faith with the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Gary Cahill, as England hosted rivals Scotland at Wembley. Gordon Strachan, under immense scrutiny as the manager of an underachieving Scotland side, handed surprise starts to Ikechi Anya, Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths. Celtic stalwart Scott Brown also started, a week after he announced coming out of retirement: possibly just for this game.
The first quarter-of-an-hour saw England pressed hard by Scotland. The visitors saw plenty of the ball, and highlighted some seemingly ever-present vulnerabilities in the England back-line. Nevertheless, on twenty-three minutes, England converted the game’s first real chance. A deep cross from Henderson was headed clear by the Scotland defence. Raheem Sterling picked the ball up in the middle of the park, and sidestepped Brown. He unleashed a long shot, which was duly blocked by centre-back Grant Hanley. The ball ran free on the right flank, where Tottenham’s Kyle Walker was left in acres of space. Three men in white shirts all waited in the Scotland box. Walker fired in low. Stooping to meet the ball went Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge. The smallest of contacts was applied, and still the ball flew past Craig Gordon, and into the Scotland net. A fast, predatory goal from England – who led 1-0.
Scotland regained control, and Robert Snodgrass’ free-kick caused havoc for England. Grant Hanley managed to stab the ball to Leigh Griffiths. The Celtic striker is on fire this season, but his hard, driven shot did not manage to make its way past John Stones, whose guts sent the ball over the bar and away from danger. The resulting corner was a well-struck one, and Newcastle United defender Grant Hanley was left totally unmarked. Hanley had all the time in the world to thump his header into the net, but instead the ball went cannoning off his forehead and over the crossbar once again.
The final chances of the half fell, once again, to Scotland. A communication breakdown in the centre of the pitch left Wayne Rooney giving the ball away to Leigh Griffiths. The striker had support from Hull’s Snodgrass, but chose to shoot himself. John Stones blocked his strike, and Robert Snodgrass was left livid and dumbfounded as to why Griffiths never put him through on goal. A few minutes later, Darren Fletcher had a run at the England defence. He sold a fake shot to Wayne Rooney, before being hurried by Adam Lallana. The West Bromwich Albion man laced the ball hard and true, but the ball kept rising, ending up in the Wembley stands. The half-time whistle blew, and the better side, Scotland, were trailing 1-0.
Gordon Strachan’s side picked up where the left off. A blistering counter-attack from the men in pink left Lee Wallace free on the left-wing. Griffiths dummied a touch, but instead let the ball run for Celtic teammate James Forrest. The twenty-five-year-old midfielder weaved in front of the almost absent Eric Dier, before firing wide, with another glorious Scotland chance. Scotland kept finding spaces in the England defence, and found themselves in yet again, when a one-two between Lee Wallace and Scott Brown left the former free on the by-line. His cross fell nicely for the onrushing Snodgrass, who squeezed a shot through. From point-blank range John Stones blocked, and another promising Scotland attack was over.
An almost rare England attack followed. Eric Dier’s lumped ball left Sturridge able to find Raheem Sterling’s run. The ever-eager Danny Rose offered an overlap, which Sterling duly used. Danny Rose flung a cross into the box; a cross flew just beyond Wayne Rooney. Adam Lallana rose majestically. The Liverpool midfielder, on the penalty spot, threw himself at the ball, and arrowed a difficult header way beyond the reach of Craig Gordon in the Scotland goal. Scotland’s players looked utterly dejected. England found themselves, possibly undeservedly, 2-0 ahead. James Morrison and Wayne Rooney – both scorers in former editions of this tie – had chances for their respective teams, before England earned a sixtieth minute corner. Wayne Rooney whipped in a fierce corner, which Gary Cahill converted for three. The Chelsea man is a real danger from set-pieces, and his front post run left him unmarked, and able to send an inspired header beyond Craig Gordon’s grasp for the third time of the night.
Raheem Sterling missed from two yards, and Daniel Sturridge was denied a second goal by Grant Hanley, before the final whistle blew. Gordon Strachan remains a man under intense pressure. Gareth Southgate remains a man in line for one of the most sought after jobs in football management. At full-time at Wembley, it was England 3-0 Scotland.