Scotland threw everything they could at England in the emotion of rivalry and the fury of history and the passion of song at Hampden Park on Tuesday night on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary Heritage match between the old enemies. England responded by turning Scotland’s evening into football’s version of a piper’s lament.
Flower of Scotland was belted out so loudly before the match, packing much more than a century and a half of pride and resentment into its words as it rolled around the famous old ground, that it sent chills down the spine.
At half time, the stadium sang in unison of the ‘bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’ and, before their players came back out to try to put a dent in England’s 2-0 lead, they tried a different tack and played the anthem that has been the accompaniment to their recent successes, ‘Yes, Sir, I can Boogie.’
No one could fault the effort but it did not work. England took the low road in the course of a 3-1 victory where they often outclassed their opponents with their slick, quick passing and assured technique and where Jude Bellingham looked a level above everyone else on the pitch.
Amid all the history and the pomp, this was a welcome boost for England manager Gareth Southgate after the criticism he was subjected to for the horror of falling to a rare draw, against Ukraine in Wroclaw, on Saturday in England’s most recent Euro24 qualifying tie.
England silenced Hampden Park to run out 3-1 winners against Scotland on Tuesday evening
Jude Bellingham was England’s star of the show against their old rivals at Hampden Park
England captain Harry Kane (second from right) sealed victory for England with a third strike late on
This victory, the style in which it was achieved and the performance of Bellingham, in particular, was a reminder that for all the absurdity of some of the charges laid at Southgate’s door, this is a fine England team that stands on the brink of qualifying for the Euros, where it will be one of the favourites.
Scotland were in fine form going into this game, having won the first five of their Euro2024 qualifying ties in a group that includes Spain and Norway, but there were long periods of this game where England made them look naïve.
Scotland (3-4-2-1): Gunn; Porteous, Hendry, Tierney (Armstrong 82); Hickey (Patterson 89), Gilmour (Dykes 60), McGregor (Jack 89), Robertson; McTominay, McGinn (Ferguson 82); Adams (Christie 59)
Goal: Maguire OG
Booked: Hendry, Tierney
Manager: Steve Clarke
England (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Walker, Dunk, Guehi (Maguire 46), Trippier; Rice, Phillips; Foden (Saka 71), Bellingham (Gallagher 84), Rashford (Eze 71); Kane (Wilson 84)
Goals: Foden, Bellingham, Kane
Booked: Phillips, Bellingham
Manager: Gareth Southgate
If the match was something of a reality check for Scotland, it was another sign of England’s pedigree. This was a difficult test in a hostile environment and England passed it with flying colours.
Bellingham was magnificent in midfield, creating two of England’s goals for Phil Foden and Harry Kane and scoring one himself and there were fine performances from others, including Foden and Marcus Rashford.
Even Harry Maguire, who scored an own goal to give Scotland hope midway through the second half, was cheered from the pitch by the England fans and he acknowledged their support with a raised fist.
Southgate has been criticised, too, for his loyalty to Maguire but he tore into the central defenders’ critics after the match. ‘There has been ridiculous treatment of him for a long period of time,’ Southgate said. ‘It’s a joke. I’ve never known a player treated the way he is by our own pundits. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen.’
The night was a tremendous occasion that honoured the fierce rivalry that has existed between these two football nations all the way back to November 30, 1872 when they met for the first time at Hamilton Crescent in the Partick area of Glasgow.
It allowed us to wallow in the memories of past occasions while revelling in the ability of the latest generation of England players on view.
England were all smiles at full-time as they controlled proceedings at Hampden Park
Harry Maguire (right) scored a second-half own goal to give Scotland momentary hope
Southgate selected Foden in his starting line-up, which may have given some of the manager’s more hysterical critics pause for thought but probably little more than that. For an England coach who has been more successful than any predecessor since Sir Alf Ramsey. Southgate gets precious little credit for the progress he has brought.
If he picks Foden, he will be criticised for leaving out Rashford. If he leaves out Jordan Henderson – which he did – he will be lambasted for selecting Kalvin Phillips. Some England fans would rather have a high-profile manager and an unsuccessful team. It is a strange bargain they want to strike.
In that world, of course, England should have won both Euro2020 and last year’s World Cup at a canter. In that world, a country such as Scotland should be nothing more than cannon fodder irrespective of the giant strides they, too, have made under Steve Clarke.
‘It’s kind of important to them,’ former Scotland international Pat Nevin said before the game, referring to the England players, ‘but it’s not the same. What it means to us is absolutely extraordinary. If any player plays in this game and wins it and is Scottish, you will remember that and talk about that for the rest of your life.’
Bellingham scored England’s second goal and assisted Kane for their third goal
The England midfielder (left) was deployed behind Kane in a 4-2-3-1 system against Scotland
Phil Foden opened the scoring for England after being handed a start on the right wing
In spite of all that, England started better. Rashford kept finding space behind Scotland’s high line and when 18 minutes had gone, he cut inside and laid a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of Foden. Foden leaned back as he hit it and the ball ballooned high over the crossbar to happy jeers from the home fans.
England forged another opportunity six minutes later. Again, it came down the left. Again, Rashford was instrumental. This time, his slide-rule pass freed Bellingham and when Bellingham’s cross fell to Kyle Walker at the back post, he chested it down but drove his shot across the face of goal.
England got the goal their superiority deserved just after the half hour. They worked the ball down their right until Rashford played it back to Walker. Walker drove it across the box at pace and Foden stuck out his left foot to steer it expertly into the net from close range.
Two minutes later, England were further ahead. As England threatened again, the Scotland defence seemed to panic when they retrieved the ball and instead of clearing it, their captain, Andy Robertson passed it straight to Bellingham.
The Real Madrid midfielder, who has made such an electric start to his career in Spain, was only about ten yards out and he lashed the ball past Angus Gunn to send the England fans behind the goal into raptures.
The home fans appeared to take some consolation in the appearance of Maguire in the second half after he was brought on to replace Marc Guehi. Maguire’s name was cheered, ironically, by the Scots but initially it did little to improve their fortunes.
Scotland captain Andrew Robertson rued making a calamitous error that led to England’s second goal
Tempers flared at times but it was a relatively well-behaved match between the two old rivals
Scotland went into the game with their tails up but were subdued by an impressive England side
Then, midway through the half, Robertson made a measure of amends for his earlier mistake. When the Liverpool full-back drove forward and lashed a cross into the box, Maguire stuck out a leg at the front post and inadvertently diverted the ball past Aaron Ramsdale.
Scotland were back in it. When the roar subsided, the home fans sang Maguire’s name over and over again. These are uncomfortable times, for both club and country, for the Manchester United defender.
Substitute Eberechi Eze, on for Rashford, should have re-established England’s two goal advantage when he raced clean through moments after coming on but he could not squeeze his shot past Gunn.
It did not matter. Ten minutes from the end, Bellingham turned brilliantly on the edge of the Scotland area, lost his man with ease and slid a clever pass into Harry Kane. Kane took one touch to control the ball and move it on to his left foot and then curled it around Gunn.