Harry Kane scored a dramatic goal in the last minute of stoppage time as England carved out a 2-2 draw against the Old Enemy Scotland at Hampden Park.
Three goals in the last 6 minutes ensured this was a match no-one was going to forget in a while as two Leigh Griffiths free kicks gave Scotland an unexpected lead going into injury time after a game where the first 70 minutes were ultimately a bit dull.
The last 20 minutes turned out to be fascinating as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave England a lead they deserved as Scotland had about as much bite as a goldfish for the majority of the match. How Leigh Griffiths the Celtic star was to turn the whole game on it’s head with two sublime free kicks that left England keeper Joe Hart flapping at air in just three minutes.
Scotland fans couldn’t believe what was going on, actually I don’t think anybody could believe what was going on and then with just seconds left that man Harry Kane popped up to head home and give England a deserved equalizer and heavily dent Scotlands hopes of World Cup qualification for yet another campaign.
The game had looked destined for a fairly dour 0-0 draw when substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the beneficiary of poor goalkeeping from Craig Gordon with 20 minutes remaining shoving England into a 1-0 lead they just about deserved.
Then the drama showed up as Hampden Park erupted in the 87th minute when Leigh Griffiths curled home a 25-yard free-kick for his first international goal, before lightning struck twice in the final minute of normal time as another set-piece from the Celtic star put Scotland on the brink of a famous Group F victory. Two cracking free kicks which will put question marks over Joe Hart’s time in the England goal with Fraser Forster creeping up behind him.
However there was more drama than a weeks worth of Eastenders and Coronation Street combined as Kane – wearing the armband in place of the absent Wayne Rooney met Raheem Sterling’s swinging cross to silence the home fans.
A draw means Gareth Southgate’s men have left the chasing pack an opportunity to gain ground, with Slovenia three points back in second, while Slovakia will close within two by beating Lithuania.
For Scotland, the late heartbreak means their chances of automatic qualification remain remote at best with the gap to England at six, while they are three points off second.
Hart was largely a bystander in the England goal, though, with Griffiths’ tame 20-yard effort easily held. England initially struggled for fluency until Kane expertly took down Eric Dier’s long pass and lashed a half-volley over the crossbar.
Shortly after, Kane failed to sort out his feet after Adam Lallana brilliantly weaved his way into the area to set up the Tottenham striker and then Scotland almost shot themselves in the foot when Gordon rushed off his line and the goalkeeper’s poor header fell to Kane, whose lob was nodded away by Kieran Tierney and Marcus Rashford’s follow-up was deflected wide.
Scotland had a lucky escape shortly after the restart when Jake Livermore’s strike deflected off Charlie Mulgrew and struck the post but England made the breakthrough with 20 minutes remaining.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had been on the pitch just five minutes, brilliantly waltzed into the area from the right and struck a left-foot shot at an unsighted Gordon, who could only palm the effort into the top-right corner. It was a great mazy run and it looked for all the world that Gareth Southgate had made a superb tactical move bringing the Arsenal man into the game.
Then came an incredible end to the match. Griffiths levelled the scores with a brilliantly executed free-kick that beat Hart to his left, the first time that England have conceded on the road to Russia. A second Griffiths set-piece three minutes later then sailed past Hart at the other side of the goal. There were just two minutes and 58 seconds between Griffiths’ first and second direct free-kick strikes for Scotland and Scottish voices were at full volume, but England silenced the home fans.
Dier’s free-kick was well saved, but the ball was recycled and substitute Sterling’s brilliant cross from the left was side-footed home on the volley by Kane, with Gordon left flat-footed.
Two goals from England, one from one sub and an assist from the other and Harry Kane’s equaliser was his first goal for England since May 2016 vs Turkey, ending a run of 575 minutes without one.
For England they are now unbeaten in 35 qualifying games, since a defeat at Ukraine in October 2009 (W26 D9).
So England’s lead is cut to two point over Slovakia whilst Scotland lie in 4th position, 3 points behind Slovenia and 4 behind Slovakia with their hopes of qualification receding by the game.