England too good for Scotland in Glasgow
Oxlade-Chamberlain and a Rooney brace set up comfortable win for auld enemy at Celtic Park
Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring England’s second in their 3-1 win over Scotland at Celtic park
For a few moments England had toyed with the idea of making it a more difficult night than necessary. Andy Robertson had just scored a goal that seemed utterly incongruous to the rest of Scotland’s performance and, briefly, the crowd sensed an improbable comeback. England’s response came in the form of the brilliantly choreographed passing that led to Wayne Rooney’s second goal and a bit of football that was beyond their opponents.
England certainly made a mockery of the claim that they might somehow be intimidated by the partisan Scottish support. Fraser Forster in England’s goal had been required to make only noteworthy save before Robertson’s goal, seven minute from the end of time, and in terms of control and poise there have not been many other occasions in Roy Hodgson’s tenure when his team have looked so assured.
Rooney’s jubilation after turning in Adam Lallana’s cutback, at the end of a slick exchange of pass-them-to-death football, manifested itself in the leaping somersault that we first saw from him when he was bludgeoning defences in Euro 2004. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had opened the scoring in the first half and Rooney’s first of the night came two minutes after the interval, on a night when he moved to within three goals of Bobby Charlton’s scoring record.
Celtic Park was a loud, seething pit of bias. It was tribal, relentless and, in the case of the official England band, there was a degree of ignominy, too, for repeatedly playing a tune for which the words go “Fuck the IRA”. The volume went up a few more decibel levels when the two sets of supporters had the chance to shout down one another’s national anthem and,while Danny Welbeck versus Shaun Maloney might not be Bryan Robson against Graeme Souness, the night definitely had its edge.
Too much, however, can be made of a crowd’s noise. England’s starting XI included eight players from Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, and the bottom line is that footballers at that level do not tend to be intimidated by a background din. Hodgson’s men looked totally unfazed by the atmosphere and if there were shortcomings, they had nothing to do with how loud it was in the stands.
That quickly became evident from the confident way England began the game, with plenty of the ball in a 4-3-3 formation that had Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in from the wings, with James Milner and Stewart Downing operating alongside Jack Wilshere in more deep-lying positions.
Scotland might have been expected to put their opponents under some concerted pressure in the opening stages but it was a strangely passive start from Gordon Strachan’s men. Their tactic was to defend in numbers, then try to catch England on the counterattack, but they did not come particularly close to threatening Fraser Forster in England’s goal once during the first half.
England’s superior possession made it difficult for the home side to build any momentum and for long spells they looked precisely what they are: a team comprising seven players from the Championship, and the same again on the bench.
The more rounded football came from their opponents and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal was classy in its creation. Wilshere was prominently involved and when he is capable of eluding opponents and setting up colleagues with this expertise it can seem faintly wasteful sometimes that Hodgson tends to operate with him in a more defence-minded role.
Wilshere had created the danger with a burst of acceleration from midfield. His cross was delivered beautifully and Oxlade-Chamberlain had run beyond the left-back, Robertson, and the nearest other opponent, Grant Hanley, before glancing a header past David Marshall.
It was strange to see Scotland offering so little resistance in a fixture of such significance. At one stage, shortly after Rooney had made it 2-0, Marshall pumped a long kick forward and one of England’s half-time substitutes, Phil Jagielka, had the time to control it on his chest and knee before finding a team-mate without a single opponent coming in to challenge him.
Shortly afterwards, Hanley went to play a simple pass to Robertson to the left of defence and put the ball out for a throw-in. England had not managed to silence the crowd but they had subdued the home team and the timing of Rooney’s goal effectively removed any already faint threat of a second-half onslaught.
It originated from a free-kick on the right that saw Charlie Mulgrew booked for a cynical body-check on Oxlade-Chamberlain. Milner delivered the cross into the penalty area and Luke Shaw had the first attempt. It was off-target but Robertson inadvertently turned the ball across the six-yard area and into Rooney’s path. England’s captain still had to generate a lot of power with his neck muscles to send an instinctive, twisting header past Marshall. It was his 45th England goal, putting him ahead of Jimmy Greaves as the third highest scorer in the all-time list, three behind Gary Lineker and four adrift of Bobby Charlton’s record. In the Hodgson era, Rooney has now scored 18 times in 28 appearances.
Robertson’s goal was a low finish inside the near post after an exchange of passes with one of the substitutes, Johnny Russell, and England treated the moment like an affront. The response was put together wonderfully and gave the score a more accurate look.