England 0 Scotland 0: Three Lions booed off in drab Euro 2020 nailbiter against Auld Enemy
WE had been hearing false accusations of English arrogance all week long from the Scottish camp.
In truth England were not arrogant enough by half.
Gareth Southgate’s were lulled into a false sense of insecurity by a Scotland team playing their game of their lives.
England were anxious, then panicky. Untidy, then thoroughly ragged.
There were no clear heads and little self-belief.
And when Harry Kane was withdrawn 16 minutes from time, it was clear Southgate is facing a crisis over his captain – who looked as if he was running through porridge at times.
Kane’s lack of sharpness was a minor worry in England’s opening win against Croatia, here it was cause for severe stress.
This barely-deserved point means England are through to the last 16 barring a bizarre set of mathematics – but they look nothing like a team capable of going deep into this tournament.
It was a night when England hoped for a statement performance to set them up for the knock-out stages but this was anything but.
Scotland showed far more sense of purpose. Yes, Steve Clarke’s men snapped and scrapped and rattled and riled – but they also played the better football for long periods.
The Tartan Army lapped it up – teetering down Wembley Way in their skirts and belting out their anthems as the home crowd were reduced to jeers and whistles.
This was an inexperienced England side, and it showed. They looked impatient and nervous very early in the game, they never settled and they could easily have ended up with a humiliating defeat.
There were far too many sub-standard performances across the board – but none was more concerning than that of Kane, who is lacking rhythm and, perhaps, full fitness.
He is the one player Southgate will find it most difficult to replace and the manager is going to have to spend the next three days scrapping some well-laid plans after this.
As the Scots walked out for the warm-up they were showing keeper David Marshall flailing in the back of the net after being beaten from 50 yards by Patrik Schick in their opening defeat by the Czech Republic.
Flower of Scotland was drowned out by a deluge of boos – despite somewhat optimistic appeals from the FA to respect the visitors’ anthem.
And this place, a quarter full, sounded as hostile as it had ever done.
England’s players had been kidding themselves all week that this could be just another game. By kick-off time they knew different.
Southgate changed both of his full-backs, Reece James and Luke Shaw in for Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier – bold selections which gave his side an extremely youthful look.
Steve Clarke welcomed back Kieran Tierney, who excelled, brought the creative Billy Gilmour in to anchor his midfield and moved Scott McTominay back to central defence.
Scotland were right at it from the off, Che Adams having an early shot blocked and England struggling to settle.
Ten minutes in, England began to pass and move. Mason Mount had a shot deflected wide, delivered the corner himself and John Stones crashed a free header against the post.
Then Sterling delivered a nutmegged centre and Mount shot wide at the near post.
But England were failing to dominate, their passing lacked sharpness, Kane was looking sluggish, and there was a claymore’s edge to Scotland’s tackling.
Steve Clarke’s men were making this their kind of game – a feisty, ragged derby – and there was an anxiety about the Wembley crowd.
On the half-hour, Scotland almost scored. Kieran Tierney kippered Reece James and centred for Stephen O’Donnell to scuff a volley, Jordan Pickford plunging low to push away.
There was a feeling that the Scots were more ‘up for it’, though in all probability they were enjoying the freedom of the underdog, England were inhibited by their favouritism and frustrated by their inability to impose themselves.
As the first half drew to a close, Scotland were more comfortable, and more purposeful in possession, and England retreated to boos from their own supporters.
It was beginning to feel a little like Iceland in Nice – England panicky, lacking clarity of thought, snatching at passes. And the Scots are a better side than Iceland were.
Southgate’s half-time team talk ought to have started with the words ‘calm the f*** down and play your football’.
England began the second half with far more assuredness, Sterling causing problems, a Mount shot forcing Marshall to push wide, James firing over from the edge of the box.
Then those jitters returned – James and Stones stumbling around in their own penalty box and the crowd clamouring for Grealish.
As Grealish stripped off for action, to replace Phil Foden, James headed off the line from Lyndon Dykes.
Kane was withdrawn, in favour of Marcuc Rashford, 16 minutes from time and there could be no argument. The skipper had achieved next to nothing.
Not that Grealish, Rashford or any of the rest of them could carve out a proper chance in the closing stages.
The final whistle sounded to Scottish roars and English boos. What a thorough letdown this was.
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