World Cup qualifiers round-up: Scotland slump as Wales win and England thrashes minnows
Gordon Strachan’s first competitive match in charge ended in defeat against home nation rivals Wales on Friday night. Wales came from behind to claim a vital victory in a feisty affair at Hampden Park. In stark contrast, England cruised past lowly San Marino as they look to gain ground on group leaders Montenegro.
It was a case of deja vu, as Wales yet again came from behind to win 2-1 against Scotland. In their previous encounter Scotland let a 1-0 lead slip and did so yet again on home soil.
The Scots took the lead right on half time, thanks to Blackburn defender Grant Hanley – despite Wales dominating the flow of the game. Hanley’s header ensured that Scotland would go in at the break 1-0 up, albeit against the run of play.
The goal looked to have galvanised the Tartan Army, as they came out of the blocks fast in the opening stages of the second half. With Gareth Bale limping off before the break, Scotland almost doubled their advantage, when Robert Snodgrass struck a sweet effort that crashed off Boaz Myhill’s post.
As the game wore on, the 74th minute was a real turning point in the game. Robert Snodgrass fouled Chris Gunter to gift Wales a penalty and received his second yellow card of the game, reducing Scotland to ten men in the process.
Aaron Ramsay stepped-up and lashed his spot-kick onto the crossbar in. This was the start of a crazy three-minute spell. Just a minute later, Andy King delivered a killer cross that Hal Robson-Kanu was able to finish emphatically with his head.
Wales had come back yet again against Scotland – and it was heartbreak for Gordon Strachan on his home debut.
Scotland now sit bottom of Group A with just two points from five games, whilst Wales sit 3rd with six points from as many games. Both teams are playing catch up against table toppers Belgium and Croatia, whom are both on 13 points.
England headed to San Marino knowing that a boost to their goal difference would put them in good stead for Tuesday’s clash with group leaders Montenegro. In a predictably one-sided affair, England ran out 8-0 winners over the joint-lowest ranked side in the world.
England dominated from start to finish and expectedly played with fluidity and flair. An own goal from Alessandro Della set England on their way to victory – and goals from Oxlade-Chamberlain, Young, Defoe and Lampard made it 5-0 at half time.
The Three Lions came out in buoyant spirits and didn’t sit back on their comfortable lead. With the game ever looking like a training session, goals from Rooney, Sturridge and a clever flick from Defoe for his second, made it 8-0 on the night.
The victory equalled England’s biggest margin since October 1987 and gave the team huge confidence going into Tuesday’s crunch fixture with Montenegro.
Montenegro’s 1-0 win in Moldova kept them at the top of the table on 13 points – two ahead of England in second.
Thomas Bradley, football correspondent
Spain 1 – 1 Finland
Israel 3 – 3 Portugal
Sweden 0 – 0 Republic of Ireland
France 3 – 1 Georgia
Austria 6 – 0 Faroe Islands
Kazakhstan 0 – 3 Germany