Substitute Rickie Lambert made a magical start to his international career with a winning goal on his debut as England claimed a 3-2 victory over Scotland in their international friendly at Wembley.
The 31-year-old Southampton striker came on in the 67th minute to replace Wayne Rooney - and within three minutes he had grabbed the headlines with a powerful header to make the perfect impact, having waited 16 years for his international call-up.
It was a glorious finale for Lambert and England after a dreadful start to the match for the hosts. A horrible mistake from Joe Hart gifted Scotland the lead in just the 11th minute after the goalkeeper failed to deal with a shot from James Morrison.
Theo Walcott drew England level just before the half-hour mark then Kenny Miller restored Scotland’s lead with a sharp turn and emphatic finish at the start of the second half - but England swiftly levelled once more as Danny Welbeck headed beyond Allan McGregor from a Steven Gerrard free-kick.
The stage was then perfectly set for Lambert to produce the bullet header that clinched a dramatic victory for England with his first touch of the match. He was denied a second by the post in stoppage-time.
England last met Scotland in 1999, in a qualifying play-off for Euro 2000, and the intensity of much of the play belied the low-key build-up to a match scheduled just three days before the start of the Premier League season.
Scotland coach Gordon Strachan made three changes from the side that secured a 1-0 win away to Croatia in their World Cup qualifier in June with captain Scott Brown, James Forrest and Miller coming in; Roy Hodgson made five changes following England’s 2-2 draw in Brazil as captain Gerrard formed a midfield trio with Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley, with Welbeck handed a starting berth in attack.
Perhaps inevitably, the first half-chance of the match fell to Rooney – still the focus of one of the biggest summer transfer sagas – who did not quite manage to get sufficient contact on his shot at the near post as he latched on to a devilish cross from Leighton Baines out on the left.
Within minutes of the opening chance at one end, Scotland struck at the other: Morrison drilled a low shot from the edge of the England penalty area and Hart only managed to parry the ball tamely into his own net. It was a poor piece of keeping from the Manchester City shot-stopper with the effort straight at him.
While the travelling supporters were in delirium, England gradually played their way back into the match with Walcott and Cleverley at the forefront of their positive moves. The pair combined superbly for what looked set to be the equaliser in the 27th minute as Cleverley burst into the Scotland box, but he ended up losing his balance and stumbling over the ball with just McGregor to beat.
Within two minutes, however, England had their equaliser: Cleverley played a sublime through ball into the path of Walcott, and the England forward held his composure superbly to slot a left-footed shot under McGregor and inside the near post. It was Walcott’s fifth goal for his country.
Steven Whittaker struggled to contain Walcott for much of the match. A low cross from the forward found Cleverley in space inside the Scotland box, but the Manchester United midfielder scuffed his shot and another opportunity went begging just before half-time.
Scotland were back in front within five minutes of the restart as Miller, who won his 69th cap at the age of 33, swivelled to confuse Cahill and beat Hart with a thunderous finish into the corner of the net. It was the Vancouver Whitecaps striker’s 18th goal for Scotland - more than the rest of Strachan's squad combined.
McGregor made a very fine reflex stop down low at his far post after a deep cross from Gerrard took a deflection off defender Russell Martin, but four minutes after Scotland’s second, England restored parity once more as Welbeck rose high to head into the near corner of the net from a pinpoint Gerrard free-kick.
It was Gerrard’s last meaningful act as he handed the captain's armband to Frank Lampard and was replaced by Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Southampton striker Lambert made his entrance as Rooney exited after the hour mark.
The 31-year-old wasted no time in rising imperiously to head a corner kick beyond McGregor with his first touch after coming on.
Lambert could have grabbed a second in stoppage time as he struck the post with a side-footed effort from close range, but that will not spoil his evening.
England’s attention now turns to vital World Cup qualifying fixtures - but for Lambert at least this was far from a meaningless pre-season friendly.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Danny Welbeck - England: The Manchester United forward rose to power a header into the net from Gerrard's free-kick and was a livewire throughout, providing a constant outlet and a threat in the final third.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rickie Lambert
- Danny Welbeck
- Steven Gerrard