Scotland 2 - 2 England: Heartbreak as Scots denied famous win
Scotland had appeared to give their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup a shot in the arm with a momentous and famous victory over England, until Harry Kane netted a stoppage time equaliser.
Gordon Strachan’s men had fallen behind to an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain strike which, in itself, looked like being the winner until Leigh Griffiths produced two late stupendous free-kicks to send Hampden Park tonto.
But poor defensive play right at the end saw Kane sneak in at the back post and rescue a draw for England and provide more glorious failure for Scotland.
The 114th meeting of international football’s oldest foes was a naturally tense affair, with the hosts looking to keep their dreams of reaching Russia alive as Gareth Southgate’s men attempted to tighten their grip on top spot.
Scotland started the game brighter in Glasgow, despite a change in formation Scotland settled quickest. With Leigh Griffiths leading the line Scotland had a nuisance factor which spread throughout the team. The home side were extremely quick and eager to snap into challenges.
This was shown as early as the third minute when Scott Brown went in late on Dele Alli to earn himself a needless booking, something which he is unaccustomed to at club level.
But the first 15 minutes were about Scotland, Brown, Griffiths, Stuart Armstrong and the two wing-backs, Andrew Robertson and Ikechi Anya pressing high in midfield not allowing England to build through the middle easily.
The frustration was clear early on when Gary Cahill knocked the ball back to Joe Hart frustratingly and motioned to his team-mates for more movement.
Despite the bright opening and a smattering of corners all Gordon Strachan’s men had to show for their efforts was a Griffiths effort from outside the box which went straight to hart in the England goal.
England were keen to push their full-backs forward but both centre-midfielders, Jake Livermore and Eric Dier, were too deep, making for a disjointed system.
It wasn’t until the 18th minute that the away side finally got a spell of controlled possession, allowing England to gradually move up the pitch. Dier in an advanced position clipped a neat ball over the defence, catching out Kieran Tierney, the left-side centre-back, and finding Harry Kane. However, the in-form striker blazed over the bar.
Ten minutes later Kane went much closer. A long pass from deep by Dier teased Gordon off his line and out his box, the Celtic goalkeeper heading away from goal but straight to Kane. The striker’s lobbed effort had plenty air-time, allowing Tierney to head the ball comfortably off the line.
His clearance, however, went to Robertson on the edge of the box, the Hull City wing-back slipping, presenting Marcus Rashford with the best chance of the game. The Manchester United forward had his shot turned away by a retreating Gordon.
Scotland were, by now, struggling to get meaningful possession in the England half, with Adam Lallana coming to the fore between the lines. He had the next effort, sidestepping away from Christophe Berra with ease but his rasping shot was the wrong side of the post.
As the game approached half-time, Livermore tested Gordon with a stinging effort.
Scotland had to improve after the interval with James McCarthur replacing James Morrison in the middle of midfield. They had to be more brave, more forceful.
Yet, before they could even settle they almost fell behind when Livermore’s shot from the edge of the box deflected off Robertson and struck the base of the post.
However, Scotland began to get a foothold on the game and drag themselves into it as a threat. Griffiths was a constant menace in attack and was joined by Celtic team-mate Armstrong, showing their team-mates the way.
The Celtic striker snuck in behind Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill to create an opening for Robertson, who was providing extra attacking thrust, but he shanked wide off goal after taking an unnecessary touch.
Armstrong went closer from a similar distance, around 20 yards, not long after.
England, by this time, were mistake-ridden, Dier the worst offender. There was little fluency in their play which was playing into Scotland’s hands.
Although with a striker like Kane there is always a danger and out of nowhere he met a cross from the left only for his header to be steered away by Gordon.
Then it arrived, and Scotland played a significant part in their own downfall. It started with a poorly hit back pass by Tierney to Gordon. Rather than clear first time, the goalkeeper attempted to take a touch but took his eye off the ball, scrambling back to clear it out for a throw-in.
From their Oxlade-Chamberlain wriggled free of Brown, cut on to his left foot and as he was closed down fired straight at Gordon only for the goalkeeper to allow the ball to pass through his hands and into the back of the net.
Lallana then passed up a great opportunity moments later. One which he would come to regret.
Chris Martin, on as sub and not booed, won a free-kick in a dangerous area. Even more so with a talent like Griffiths. He curled an effort up and offer the wall and under the wall to level.
It was a case of deja vu minutes later. Martin was again fouled. Griffiths again curled the ball over the wall, this time to Hart’s right and gloriously found the corner. Hampden Park was sent into raptures.
Just as the Tartan Army were ready to celebrate their first win over England since 1999 Dier was presented with a free-kick. One which Gordon repelled. But as Scotland broke away they made a mess of the counter-attack. England put pressure on again and a deep cross was turned past Gordon to complete a breathless final ten minutes.