Wayne Rooney moved to within three goals of England’s all-time scoring record with a brace to help his country beat old rivals Scotland 3-1 at Celtic Park in Glasgow. After Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave England a half-time advantage, Rooney headed in to double the visitors’ lead two minutes after the interval. While Scotland defender Andrew Robertson looked set to give the match a thrilling finale with a fine goal seven minutes from the end, Rooney quickly struck back to end hopes of a home comeback.
In his 101st appearance, Rooney now moves onto 46 goals for his country, just two behind the man who top-scored at the 1986 World Cup Gary Lineker and three off midfield legend and 1966 World Cup winner Bobby Charlton. Having been the target for much criticism, the Manchester United forward has now scored five goals in his last four appearances for England and the performance of both he and his team in Glasgow ended a year that contained plenty of disappointment on a real high note.
After an ignominious exit from the World Cup, England manager Roy Hodgson now goes into a four-month international hiatus having guided his side to four straight wins in Euro 2016 qualifying to all but ensure their place in France as well as gaining a morale-boosting victory over their foes to the north.
Hodgson made six changes to the team that beat Slovenia 3-1 on Saturday, with Stewart Downing among those coming in to make his first appearance for his country in more than two years. And the England coach will have been mightily encouraged by the way in which his side went in front. In the 32nd minute, Jack Wilshere chipped a superb ball in from the left to find his Arsenal teammate Oxlade-Chamberlain in behind the Scotland defense before finishing with a flicked header into the corner of the net past David Marshall.
The Cardiff City stopper was replaced by Craig Gordon at halftime, and within two minutes he was picking the ball out of his net. James Milner’s free-kick into the area failed to be cleared and Robertson inadvertently helped the ball back across his six-yard box to allow Rooney to head home. The score reflected England’s control of the game against opponents showing a perhaps understandable flatness just four days on from their 1-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland in what, despite the prestige of their rivalry with England, was a far more significant contest.
A goal from Gordon Strachan’s side to get them back into the match late on then came as some surprise. Out of place, too, was the quality of the effort. Robertson cut in from the left and exchanged passes with Johnny Russell before finishing crisply to atone for his earlier error in his own area. But just two minutes later, England’s two-goal margin was restored and victory secured. A fine move down the right culminated with Adam Lallana cutting back for Rooney to sweep the ball into the net and complete a fine night for him and his team.