SKIPPER KANE SAVES THE GAME
England looked to have lost on Scottish soil for the first time since 1985, until captain-on-the-day Harry Kane finally took an opportunity, netting in stoppage time to equalise at Hampden Park. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s lead had been wiped out and overturned by Leigh Griffiths’ two superb free-kicks, but Kane had the last laugh in a busy 2-2 draw.
Chris Smalling, Ryan Bertrand and Jake Livermore all started for England north of the border, where they had won 3-1 on their last visit – in 2014. Craig Gordon and Stuart Armstrong were surprise inclusions in a Scotland line-up that had in-form players Robert Snodgrass and Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths in attacking positions. The latter was still searching for his first Scotland goal.
Scotland started brightly, and Griffiths had one or two chances to find that goal early on, but missed on both occasions, Hart saving the second comfortably. England’s first chance of the evening began with a Lallana lay off to left-back Bertrand. The Southampton player faked a cross, tucking the ball forward back into the path of Liverpool’s creative midfielder. Lallana swivelled and dinked a cross through the Scotland defence, and past Craig Gordon’s half-hearted deflection attempt. Harry Kane, captaining his country for the first time, looked to have an easy tap in, but the annual summer football flop looked to have taken its toll as the Golden Boot winner was unable to sort his feet out, and the chance was gone. As Eric Dier played a long ball forward, later in the opening half, Gordon nervously headed the ball away. It fell to Harry Kane, more than thirty yards out, who audaciously attempted a side-footed half-volley, but which defender Kieran Tierney was able to head away, off of the line. A critical error from Andy Robertson from the clearance left Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford in, but his low volley was saved well by a recovering Gordon.
Harry Kane then found himself on the left wing, where he passed inside to Adam Lallana. Liverpool’s man sold his man a dummy, before cutting inside to fire high at Craig Gordon’s near post. The Celtic keeper was alert to parry the ball away. At half-time, a largely boring game had an equally boring scoreline: 0-0.
The Three Lions had the first chance of the second period, when Jake Livermore’s cross deflected of a Scottish shin and onto the post. It came back out to Livermore who crossed again, but five-men-on-five goal-line scramble ended with Gary Cahill’s shot deflecting wide. Robertson and Kane were both denied at either end, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ryan Fraser came on for England and Scotland respectively. The Arsenal man has largely been less involved in the Premier League than he would have wanted this season, but he showed no signs of weakness as he cleverly turned, and passed, Scott Brown. The winger danced his way through the Scottish defence, and unleashed a shot through three players, beating Gordon, who should have done better. Nevertheless, the ball flew in off Gordon’s gloves, and England, in red, celebrated the lead. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s sixth goal is his second against the Tartan Army.
In the eighty-sixth minute, substitute Fraser won a free-kick from a Cahill high foot. Striker Griffiths stepped up and swung the ball over the wall, and past Joe Hart. In cap number thirteen, Griffiths finally secured his first Scotland goal. It looked to be a late, late equaliser.
Just two minutes later, West Bromwich Albion’s Livermore slipped, taking down Chris Martin in an almost identical position to where Griffiths scored from. Leigh Griffiths stepped up again and, in almost destined-to-be style, he scored again. He whipped the ball meanly around the England wall, beating Joe Hart at the extremes once again. The forward knelt and kissed his Scotland badge in front of the home fans. Scotland fans have had little to celebrate in terms of football in recent decades; a win here would be a marquee moment for sure.
The two rivals entered stoppage-time, and Eric Dier sent a free-kick flying over the Scotland wall. It was not to be the ultimate payback however, as Gordon parried acrobatically. The ball fell for Kyle Walker, and he fed Sterling – free on the left wing. Whatever opinions might be expressed about the Manchester City youngster; his impressive season is without question. He sent a looping thirty-yard ball over the Scottish defence. Harry Kane was there to volley home majestically, wheeling away in celebration. The referee awarded five minutes of stoppage-time, and it was three minutes in that Harry Kane netted his sixth England goal, and maintained England’s record of not having lost a qualifier since October 2009. It speaks volumes that Scotland were left upset with a point against England. It ended in Hampden Park’s third 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier; Scotland 2-2 England.