On Wednesday night at Wembley, England and Scotland squared off at Wembley in the oldest international football rivalry. British bragging rights and a chance to impress their respective managers were both at stake as the players took to the field. But who would win?
The match began with a very high tempo right from the very off, and it never relented all evening as both sides took the game to each other. It was Scotland who drew first blood, though, as James Morrison smashed home a loose ball from the edge of the 18 yard box after the English defence failed to deal with it properly.
There and then it looked as though England’s arch-rivals might snatch an unexpected win, but the English had other ideas.
Following a period of being forced to shoot from distance due to some great defending from Gordon Strachan’s men as Wayne Rooney and Tom Cleverley both failed to capitalise on some decent attacking play, they eventually managed to find a breakthrough just before the half hour mark through Arsenal’s Theo Walcott.
Cleverley played a very smart ball behind the Scottish defence, causing panic and mayhem as Charlie Mulgrew and company failed to deal with Walcott’s pace. The 24-year-old switched from right to left before squeezing the ball past Allan McGregor an into the back of the net. Needless to say, the Wembley faithful were ecstatic.
The remainder of the the first half saw Rooney incorrectly ruled offside and denied a chance to score, and Robert Snodgrass create a half-chance for the visitors. And, as the half-time whistle blew, we were still unclear as to who would come out on top.
The second period saw Scotland start the brighter of the two sides once more as Kenny Miller wrongfooted Gary Cahill to fire the ball past the helpless Joe Hart after only four minutes of play. The goal put them ahead and prompted many to wonder if the fairytale might really be about to happen.
Then, a mere four minutes later up stepped Manchester United starlet Danny Welbeck to silence the travelling fans with a wonderful goal of his own. This time it was England captain Steven Gerrard who was integral to the action as he whipped in a free-kick for Welbeck to glance home with his head. If it wasn’t clear before, now we knew for sure that we had a real contest on our hands.
In truth, the Scots were incredibly tenacious, disciplined and stubborn in defence throughout the tie, and they looked very capable of keeping England out for large periods. Unfortunately, they were undone by some great set-pieces by the Three Lions as England found their old foe’s weakness.
More accurately, it was 31-year-old Southampton striker Rickie Lambert who would prove their undoing as well as stealing the fairytale right from under Strachan’s nose. Twenty minutes from time, only moments after being introduced as a substitute for Wayne Rooney, Lambert headed a powerful header in to the back of the net from a corner to seal a memorable debut and, in the process, break Scottish hearts.
He joins an exclusive and star-studded cast of famous players who’ve managed to score on their debuts that include Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Greaves and Alan Shearer. And what’s more is that he could have had another late on, although he was denied by the woodwork.
In the end, Scotland faded slightly, although they never looked like giving up, and they can surely be proud of their efforts on Wednesday which saw them push the English all the way in an exciting and dramatic night of football at Wembley.