Lambert dream comes true to spare Hart’s blushes

Match Report: England 3-2 Scoland – The oldest international football rivalry of all-time.

Last night, England faced Scotland for the first time in 14 years. That game, at the old Wembley Stadium, resulted in a 1-0 win for the Scots. The match was titled as a ‘friendly’; there couldn’t be a more inappropriate name. There were rumoured to be around 20,000 Scotland fans in and around Wembley, with many there as early as 8 o’clock yesterday morning. Sky Sports News interviewed a few of the Tartan Army, who believed the fixture hadn’t been played for such a long time due to England’s “fear of losing” to Scotland.

The boozed up Scotland fans’ predictions proved to be correct just 11 minutes into the game when a failed Welbeck clearance from a corner fell nicely for midfielder James Morrison to have a crack at goal. Morrison adjusted his body shape, took a touch out from his body and fizzed a shot through 4 England players, leaving Joe Hart to make a costly mistake. Hart got his hands to the ball, but parried it downwards and into the net instead of wide for a corner. Morrison, who plays for West Brom, wheeled away in jubilation with the rest of his teammates. The Tartan Army were now in full voice after seeing their heroes take an early lead. England nil, Scotland one.

A chance for England to equalise opened up 15 minutes later when Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere was played through on goal by Rooney, but the Arsenal playmaker hit his shot straight at Allan McGregor, only to fall as he prepared for the resulting rebound. Scotland’s shape had become more withdrawn and compact after scoring, forcing the United pair, Rooney and Welbeck, to get in each others’ way whilst dropping deep to collect the ball. The longer England failed to equalise, the more frustrating it became to watch. Two minutes after Wilshere’s chance, though, fellow Arsenal player Theo Walcott was played through on goal after a defence-splitting ball from Tom Cleverley. Walcott was in a familiar position as he got in behind the left-back, Steven Whittaker, and had the option to play a square ball for Rooney. However, England’s number 7 decided to cut inside onto his weaker left foot, slotting the ball into the bottom corner. The goal was undeserved to say the least after a fine Scottish first half performance. But football doesn’t work that way. England one, Scotland one. Game on.

The score remained one apiece as the first half drew to a close. Once again, Scotland came out the better team and were suitably rewarded just 4 minutes into the second half. Right-back Alan Hutton whipped in a ball that landed awkwardly at Kenny Miller’s feet on the edge of the box, but with a cunning drop of his left shoulder, Miller turned right and smashed the ball into the bottom left corner. The veteran striker, who know plays for Canada-based Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS, made a mockery of Cahill, sending him the wrong way before finishing in style. The goal raised concerns about England’s centre-back pairing, and rightly so. Phil Jagielka had pressed too far up, meaning Gerrard had to cover him, thus opening up the space in midfield for Hutton’s ball to reach Miller. Questions were asked, too, about the passion of the England players. Were they simply not trying hard enough? It was 2-1 to the visitors, and England knew they had to step up their game in front of a demanding home crowd. Prior to Scotland’s 2nd, England wrongly had a goal disallowed when Rooney’s intelligent run allowed him to latch onto Gerrard’s exquisite lobbed through ball, finishing well. The assistant referee had flagged for offside, though, and the goal was ruled out. TV replays proved the official wrong, but nothing could be done to change his mind.

Shortly after Scotland took the lead for the second time, goalkeeper McGregor was forced into an unexpected, but equally stunning save. Gerrard’s free-kick from just past the halfway line missed all the England players, only for Scottish defender Russell Martin to get his head on the ball, meaning that McGregor had to get low quickly to parry the ball out for a corner. Gerrard, only a minute later, played in another dangerous free-kick, this time with a different outcome. Danny Welbeck rose highest, dropping into the space just behind Martin to flick the ball on into the back of the net. England had equalised for the second time; would Scotland take the lead once more?

Welbeck came close to sealing a brace after another England set piece, this time a corner, was headed back where it came from by Everton’s Jagielka. Welbeck reacted quickly to see his acrobatic effort go wide. Had it gone in, it would have been a spectacular finish. Last Friday, Southampton powerhouse, 31-year-old Rickie Lambert described his day as “indescribable” when he was called up to the England squad for the first time ever, just hours after his wife, Bella, gave birth to their daughter. Between the ages of 10 and 15, Lambert was on Liverpool’s books but was later released after being told he wasn’t good enough. He moved to Blackpool, only to be told the same thing months down the line. Lambert had 5 months without football before getting back into training with non-league Macclesfield. It was a daily struggle getting to training due to not being paid, so he took dedication to a new level. He got a job screwing lids on jars of beetroot in a factory for £20 a day to keep his football dream in tact. He went on to rise through the lower leagues, playing in Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers colours along the way before joining current club Southampton. The stage was set.

Rickie Lambert entered the fray in the 67th minute with not a care in the world. Leighton Baines cracked a teasing out-swinging corner, with only one target in mind. 165 seconds into his national debut, rags-to-riches striker Lambert left McGregor no chance of keeping The Scots in the game with a bullet header which flew into the top left corner. The sheer emotion etched on Lambert’s face as he celebrated will remain a memory for many years for thousands of English supporters. England led 3-2 against Scotland in what was the first meeting at the new, jam-packed Wembley Stadium. For the first time in the match, England actually looked in control after eventually taking the lead.

Frank Lampard almost doubled England’s lead in the 77th minute when his thunderous drive was saved well. Lambert also had a chance to double his tally a minute before the full-time whistle, coming agonisingly close, hitting the woodwork after the ball awkwardly bobbled up on what is usually immaculate turf.

Danny Welbeck was ITV’s man of the match and it was hard to argue a case against the decision. Welbeck linked up well with the attackers, in particular Rooney, to match his unquestionable high work-rate. He gave the Scotland defenders no rest both on and off the ball with his unique defensive style of play, for a forward. His goal-scoring record has been highlighted for his club, with just one goal last season for league champions Manchester United. However, 6 England goals from 6 shots on target isn’t a bad strike rate. Steven Gerrard put his case forward, coming a close second, after a series of menacing passes throughout the game.

Scotland arguably didn’t deserve to lose after putting in such a good first half performance, but England’s underlying quality shone through come the final whistle. Although gritty and entertaining, England’s display was poorer than expected. There are many problems that need to be addressed if England are going to make any headlines at next year’s World Cup in Brazil. England boss Roy Hodgson has time to address these problems, but it remains to be seen if he has the quality of players to do so, too. A slow start from the English could have led to much harsher consequences if they had been facing better opposition.

Statistics:

Attendance: 80,485
Goalscorers:
Walcott (’29), Welbeck (’53), Lambert (’70) – Morrison (’11), Miller (’49)
Bookings: 4 – Walker, Walcott, Lampard – Snodgrass
Possesion: 64% – 36%
Shots (on target): 20 (8) – 8 (2)
Man of the match: Danny Welbeck

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