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Harry Kane scored for England after Leigh Griffiths’ (left) stunning double
As Kane said afterwards: “An amazing end” to what had been a pretty dire affair.
Griffiths had seemed to write his name in Scottish history with two stunning free kick goals in four that sent a nation wild with joy.
But as the Premier League has long since learned the Golden Boot winner added Captain Marvel to his title with a dramatic facesaver his side barely deserved.
Given what happened last Thursday yesterday’s fiercely partisan Tartan Army seemed to think anything could happen – before kick off at any rate.
The fact that England had gone 34 European and World Cup qualifying matches without defeat didn’t seem to register. If Jeremy Corbun can overturn the form table why can’t Scotland seemed to be the prevailing message?
Perhaps they were buoyed by the Gareth Southgate stat that showed that when he last played against the Scots back in 1999 the now England manager suffered a 1-0 defeat in a European Championship play-off at Wembley.
Clutching at straws sprung to mind even though Southgate’s side didn’t exactly start like one 48 places above Scotland in the Fifa World rankings.
Maybe the hostility shown by the totally distasteful booing of the National Anthem rattled captain Kane and co. But whatever it was, Joe Hart had a tougher return to ‘home’ shores than he might have reasonably expected to start with.
Three corners in the first 10 minutes showed how much the Scots were up for this one – on and off the pitch. And a recklessly skied clearance over his own bar by Chris Smalling rang alarm bells in the England end of Hampden.
Southgate seemed composed in his technical area, but you had to wonder why. England hardly mustered an effort on target for the best part of half an hour.
And even that first one was the result of a poor clearance by Craig Gordon that allowed Harry Kane the time and space to lob him, only to see Keiran Tierney clear off the line.
Oxlade-Chamberlain struck with 20 minutes to go
Gareth Southgate’s side are unbeaten in qualifying
To be fair it would have been something of an injustice if that had gone in at that stage, especially when Adam Lallana and Eric Dier produced a couple of woefully wayward passes that even some of the more lesser lights in this part of the world would have been ticked off about.
Scotland, meanwhile, were spirited and committed even if they didn’t have anywhere near the polish England possess in abundance but rarely showed in a first half that must have been so disappointing for all those who tracked up North to see them.
They, like the rest of us, would have been wringing their hands wondering why Southgate opted for what appeared to be a 4-5-1 formation in the first half against a side that would almost certainly have been vulnerable under pressure.
Leigh Griffiths (right) scores his first of two free-kicks
We don’t really know if the England manager believes in hair dryer treatment for under performing players, but he would certainly have been justified in letting off a few rockets.
Perhaps he did because England were marginally better – only marginally, mind you – after the break. At least they appeared to have some idea what they were supposed to be doing.
Even so, Andy Robertson – one of the few impressive performers on show – went close after one of the lesser noteworthy ones, England’s Chris Smalling, was guilty of the sort of sloppy defending you really ought not to see at this level.
Marcus Rashford didn’t cover himself in glory, either, with his apparent unwillingness to track back, and it was no real surprise that Southgate substituted the boy wonder with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
And what a substitution that turned out to be.
Leigh Griffiths scored his second free-kick just minutes later to put Scotland ahead
Harry Kane scores three minutes into stoppage time
Just five minutes after coming on the Arsenal man might have been a bit fortunate in forcing his way into the box, but there was no doubting the quality of the finish.
Thankfully that seemed to settle a few nerves after Kane had also produced England’s best effort on 65 minutes with an effort Gordon did well to save,
But up until then there was no doubt the visitors had looked rattled against a side that are also below those football giants from Panama and Saudi Arabia at Fifa’s top table.
And rattled they really were until Kane stepped up to the plate again to keep disappointing England in pollen position for next year’s World Cup finals.
Scotland, despite their bravery, have many mountains to climb to join them there.