Thursday, 15 August 2013

England 3 v 2 Scotland

Wednesday 14th August 2014
International Friendly
Wembley Stadium, London
Admission: £35.00
Programme: £6.00
Attendance: 80,485
Match Rating: 3

Although I am not usually very interested in international football matches - and to some extent England matches in general given the general half hearted displays on show - I was never going to pass up the opportunity of being there to witness England take on the auld enemy.

A description of Wembley Stadium can be found on my previous visits, and for this evening's game I selected a seat directly behind the West goal, right at the back. Although players were obviously distant from me, the seat gave me an excellent panoramic overview of the action and the stadium. Programmes were inevitably overpriced at £6, A4 format that didn't even have stiffened covers, although there was plenty of interest to read about both teams, the history of this fixture and reports from England's recent games.

Tonight's game was organised as part of the English FA's 150th anniversary, which has also seen them take on Brazil and the Republic of Ireland earlier in the year. Despite England against Scotland being the oldest international fixture in world football and the two countries have played each other more than any other two countries, England have not played Scotland since 1999, when they met in a two legged play off for Europe 2000, when both teams won their away leg, England winning 2-1 on aggregate. In the current World Cup Qualifying campaign, England still have work to do to qualify, although with three of their remaining four games taking place at Wembley, and three wins would probably suffice, their destiny is very much in their own hands. Scotland can't now qualify for Brazil after a dismal start to their campaign, although their future may now be looking a little brighter after the appointment of Gordon Strachan earlier in the year. Last time out, they managed a remarkable victory away in Croatia.

On a drizzly evening - although it mattered little once was inside Wembley Stadium - the game started quite typically for an England team. Slow and pedestrian with passes going astray, so it was little surprise when Scotland took the lead on 11 minutes. A corner was only half cleared by Danny Welbeck, was tamely helped on by Theo Walcott, only for the ball to land at the feet of James Morrison, who hit a sweet drive from the edge of the box and Joe Hart couldn't prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net, despite getting his body behind the ball. It sent the large Scottish support into raptures, which continued through to England equalising on 29 minutes. Theo Walcott raced onto an excellent pass from Tom Cleverley, outpaced the Scottish defender and raced towards goal before checking and tapping the ball into the net. There was a feeling of real relief amongst the England fans, and despite having a few half chances to take the lead, the score remained 1-1 at half time.

It might have been expected that England would stamp their authority on the game, however Scotland surprisingly went back into the lead four minutes after the break. Vancouver Whitecaps' Kenny Miller took possession of the ball just outside the penalty area, lost his marker Gary Cahill with a drop of the shoulder, and fired a powerful shot past Hart. England were only behind for four minutes though, when Welbeck guided home a header inside the near post from a Steven Gerrard free kick. Finally England took control of the game and played some good, purposeful football and it looked only a matter of time now until they would take the lead. That they did on 70 minutes when Rickie Lambert, just two minutes after coming on as a sub for his international debut, bulletted a header into the back of the net from a Leighton Baines corner. The game rather petered out after this - England lost some of their drive, whilst Scotland just seemed to have run out of steam. England would be hugely relieved to not lose to their noisy neighbours, but Scotland can take great heart from a display in which they matched England for long periods and showed plenty of grit and determination.

Video highlights at

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