An injury-time equaliser by England captain Harry Kane spared England’s blushes after Scotand threatened to secure a dramatic victory in a World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park.
Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s close-range finish after 70 minutes looked to have put England on course for three points that would have cemented their position at the top of Group F – only for Scotland to turn a largely undistinguished game upside down in the closing moments.
Celtic’s Lee Griffiths scored two magnificent free-kicks in three minutes, to the left and right of the increasingly uncertain and exposed England goalkeeper Joe Hart, to give Scotland the lead as the board went up for four minutes of stoppage time.
With Scotland’s fans pleading for the final whistle and Hampden Park in a frenzy as they closed in on their first win against the “Auld Enemy” since 1999, there was only a minute left when Kane, given the captaincy by manager Gareth Southgate, rescued his manager with a far-post finish from Raheem Sterling’s cross.
It kept an unimpressive England on course for next summer’s World Cup in Russia and dealt a savage blow to Scotland’s already dwindling chances.
Scotland went from despair to ecstasy and on to disappointment in the space of six dramatic, chaotic minutes at Hampden Park.
The famous old stadium carried an air of resignation after Oxlade-Chamberlain gave England the lead but Griffiths ignited the fervent home support with two magnificent free-kicks in three minutes to put them in sight of an unlikely victory given what had gone before.
Strachan’s side were full of industry and intent but looked short on star quality until Celtic’s Griffiths pulled two free-kicks right out of the top drawer to the left and right of England keeper Joe Hart.
In a frantic finale, with Scotland’s fans baying for the final whistle, goalkeeper Gordon saved Eric Dier’s free-kick but could do nothing as Kane arrived at the far post to turn in Sterling’s delivery.
Scotland will need a remarkable run of results to reach next year’s finals in Russia – indeed they did before kick-off – and here they paid the price for squandering three points.
They could not be faulted for endeavour and it was a tribute to their attitude and resilience that they put themselves in a position where they almost won, but ultimately Scotland are now almost certain to miss out on another major tournament.