Rickie Lambert enjoyed a dream start to his international career as he scored with his first touch in an England shirt to give the hosts a 3-2 victory over Scotland in an entertaining friendly at Wembley. In the first meeting between the oldest international foes in 14 years it was the newest addition to England’s setup that proved the difference maker as the Southampton striker completed his own rags-to-riches story with a 70th minute header from Leighon Baines’s corner.
Scotland will be aggrieved to go away with nothing to show for their efforts on the scoresheet but should take confidence after offering much and taking the lead early in each half through James Morrison and Kenny Miller. England responded, though, to the relief of coach Roy Hodgson, as he seeks to build momentum before crucial upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck both scored to get the hosts back on level terns before Lambert, who has risen through the leagues before earning his shot at the big time at the age of 31, took full advantage of his opportunity. The evening could have been even better for Lambert, too, had he made better contact with a glorious chance in the closing stages when he saw a shot come back off the post.
On an international date that often becomes a frustrating distraction right before the start of the league season, the match between these local rivals provided a competitive edge and plenty of entertainment. And early on it was Scotland that were thriving on the opportunity to take it to their neighbors to the North. Just 11 minutes in Morrison capitalized on several English errors to put Gordon Strachan’s side ahead.
Walcott only half-cleared a corner then he, along with several teammates, failed to close the ball down, allowing West Brom’s Morrison to fire in a shot from the edge of the box that Hart admittedly saw late but still should have kept at bay rather than letting it squirm into the net.
England gradually settled, although their passing remained disappointing, with captain Steven Gerrard in particular struggling to find his targets. Instead it was a direct approach that provided the home side with an equalizer in the 29th minute. Tom Cleverley’s pass set Walcott away, played onside by a dangerously straight Scotland backline, and the pacey Arsenal man cut back inside full-back Steven Whittaker before finishing left-footed inside the near post.
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Many would have expected England to kick-on at the start of the second half, but instead it was Scotland that retook the lead through a fine strike. Alan Hutton’s cross found Miller with his back to goal, but the Vancouver Whitecaps man was able to easily deceive Gary Cahill as he turned back on his left foot and drilled a superb low shot into the corner to this time leave Hart with no chance.
Yet, for all their endeavors Scotland would not repeat the victory they produced the last time the two sides met, at the old Wembley, in the second-leg of a Euro 2000 playoff. Gerrard, while not finding his range in open play, did so exceptionally from a free-kick just four minutes after England fell behind to find Welbeck, who headed past Allan McGregor. And it was another set-piece that allowed England to emerge with the victory and token regional bragging rights. This time it was Baines who produced a typically accurate delivery and Lambert rose 12 yards out to head home.