England moved into a strong position to qualify for the quarter finals with a strong 2-0 over old rival Scotland in Group A play. Alan Shearer opened the scoring for the Three Lions, before Paul Gascoigne sealed the win with one of the tournament’s most iconic goals late in the second half.
England manager Terry Venables kept the same 11 from the opening 1-1 draw with Switzerland, but did tinker with his formation for this game. During the previous game, England had looked vulnerable on the counter, and the Swiss often exposed the distance between the English defensive and midfield lines. That led to Venables utilizing a 3-5-2 formation here, deploying Gareth Southgate in a holding role behind the central midfield duo of Gascoigne and Paul Ince.
Alan Shearer, scorer of England’s lone goal against the Swiss led the attack here in a pair with Teddy Sheringham.
Scotland manager Craig Brown lined his team up in a 4-4-2, replacing Kevin Gallacher with Tosh McKinlay out wide. John Spencer had come on as a half time substitute in the opening 0-0 draw against Netherlands, and was awarded the start here in place of Scott Booth.
As would be expected in any game between these two teams, it was an adrenaline pumping start, high on tackles and loose ball duels. Scotland were awarded a 4th minute free kick when Ince brought down John Collins. Gary McAllister stepped up and struck the free kick cleanly, only to see it comfortably saved by David Seaman.
The game was very even in the early stages, with McAllister starting to show his poise and quality on the ball. The addition of defensive midfielder Southgate made it tough for Scotland to play forward to great effect. At one point, McKinlay dribbled by Gascoigne, only for Southgate to cover and win the tackle. It was a far cry from the game prior when beating Gascoigne had seen Swiss midfielder Johann Vogel go on a long dribble into the English penalty area. The 3-5-2 shape also helped England throughout the opening half by having an extra player to win second balls in front of the back four.
Scotland’s midfield also was doing a strong job defensively, particularly when it came to dealing with England star man Gascoigne. Playmaker Gascoigne had driven forward off the dribble to good effect time and again against Switzerland, but here he was under good pressure every time he received the ball. Scotland managed to either dispossess Gascoigne, or force him to play less dangerous, backwards passes almost every time he received possession during the opening half.
England won a 13th minute free kick out wide when Steve McManaman was tripped by Collins, but the set play came to nothing.
Scotland were soon on the attack down the left flank when Stuart McCall slid a pass out to McKinlay who sent in a low cross. Striker Gordon Durie attacked the near post area but could not get a shot off under strong pressure from Tony Adams. The flank attacks from Scotland served the dual purpose of not only creating chances for Scotland, but also blunting England’s attack. Stuart Pearce and Gary Neville defended mostly within the width of the 18 yard area, so England wide midfielders Darren Anderton and McManaman were forced deep time and again, taking away England’s wide outlets when they did win the ball.
The even nature of the contest was reflected when TV graphics in the 16th minute displayed a 50/50 possession split, but it was Scotland who would soon show their teeth in attack once more. Midfielder Collins carried the ball into the England half before spraying a pass wide to McAllister. A neat combination then played in overlapping fullback Stewart McKimmie, who’s cross was deflected behind for a corner by Stuart Pearce.
McAllister’s driven corner cleared everyone, but the ball was crossed back in from the far side, only for Sheringham to head over his own bar and concede the corner. Seaman came and missed the next corner, only for Colin Hendry’s rolled cutback was smothered out in numbers by the English defense.
England won a 23rd minute corner when Colin Calderwood sliced the ball out under pressure from McAllister, but the subsequent cross sailed over a crowd of bodies and was cleared by Tom Boyd.
Two minutes later, Scotland were on the attack again, with McKinlay driving forward before switching the point of attack to Spencer who showed great skill to control the long range pass out of the air. The ball was worked to McAllister, but his shot from the edge of the area was deflected out for a corner.
Scotland continued to do an excellent job of restraining Gascoigne, but Collins took the pressure one step too far, when he received a yellow card for a hard foul in the 29th minute. Gascoigne was later turned over in his own half by a combination of McAllister and McCall, with McAllister driving forward after gaining possession and releasing striker Durie. The play resulted in another corner as Adams stepped over to challenge the onrushing forward.
As the half progressed, Gascoigne was forced into deeper positions, hoping to receive possession under less pressure and be able to turn upfield. This saw Southgate pushing higher to occupy the Scotland midfielders, and it was a raid down the right side from Southgate that saw him cross to Sheringham who headed wide in the 32nd minute.
Scotland won a 34th minute free kick out wide when McAllister was fouled by Anderton. Collins crossed the ball in only for Southgate to clear after a challenge with Durie, a clash that left Durie bloodied and in need of medical attention. Durie would return after treatment and play the remainder of the game wearing a head bandage.
Upon his return, Durie was quickly on the wrong end of more rough treatment when he was fouled out wide by Ince. McAllister swung over the free kick, but the ball bounced around before a harmless shot from McCall sailed directly into the arms of Seaman. The England goalkeeper rolled the ball out quickly to start an end to end counter attack that resulted in a cross from Shearer to Sheringham, only for Andy Goram to save the header.
Half time arrived and Venables would have work to do at the break, given Scotland had 55% possession in the opening period, as well as a 5-1 advantage in corners. England’s adjustments included one substitution, bringing on Jamie Redknapp in place of Pearce, and dropping Southgate into the back three.
Scotland started the second half as they ended the first, when McAllister won a corner after Ince blocked his cross. Shearer won the defensive header from the corner at the near post, before Gascoigne hooked the ball clear.
England’s first foray into the attack of the second half came when McManaman galloped down the left wing before being fouled by McCall. The free kick was worked to Ince centrally, but the Inter Milan midfielder pulled his shot well wide of the target.
In the 50th minute, Gascoigne escaped the attention of McAllister and drove forward before being fouled by Hendry on the edge of the penalty area. Gascoigne got up to take the kick himself but his curled effort was high and wide.
England stayed on the front foot, and McManaman drove down the right wing with Neville overlapping on the outside. With the surging run by Neville freezing the Scottish fullback, McManaman cut inside and blazed his shot wide. Neville fed McManaman possession again just a minute later but his cross ended in the arms of Goram.
A rejuvenated England had started the second half strongly, and broke the deadlock with another raid down the right flank in the 53rd minute. The halftime adjustment of Neville and Southgate getting forward more from their wide spot in the back three paying massive dividends in the process. McManaman played in a charging Neville, and the defender whipped over a pinpoint cross to the back post where Shearer planted a header home.
With his confidence boosted, Neville was soon charging forward again and was fed by McManaman, but his cross was this time chested back to Goram by McKimmie with Anderton in close proximity.
Winger McManaman was starting to turn the screw on Scotland, driving forward before passing to Sheringham, who teed up Anderton after a clever dummy, only for the shot to be fired over the bar.
England continued to dominate the early phases of the second half, and were awarded a wide free kick when Calderwood was adjudged to have fouled Shearer. Gascoigne crossed the ball to a wide open Sheringham inside the 6 yard area, only for the strikers diving header to be saved by Goram.
Despite being placed under significant pressure after half time, Scotland did continue to provide a threat on the counter, and won an indirect free kick inside the penalty area when Seaman picked up a Neville back pass under pressure from McKinlay. McAllister scooped the set play to the back post, and it was headed back across into the crowd, where Adams rose to clear the ball over his own bar.
Adams also cleared the resulting corner, but the ball went to McKimmie, who was fouled by Gascoigne to give Scotland another attacking set play. McAllister whipped in the dead ball, but Southgate was first to it before Neville finished the job by clearing up the touchline.
Scotland came close to levelling the score in the 66th minute when Collins beat Ince out wide before whipping over a cross. Durie got on the end of the cross, but was denied by a good save from Seaman at the near post. Adams cleared the rebound, but Scotland were awarded yet another attacking set play when Shearer was whistled for a foul out wide. Collins took the free kick, but his cross cleared everyone on its way out for a goal kick.
Scotland boss Brown bolstered the Scottish attack at the 67 minute mark in search of an equalizer, when he subbed on veteran goal poacher Ally McCoist in place of Spencer. McCoist made an impact quickly, racing onto a ball in behind only for Italian referee Pierluigi Pairetto referee ruled no penalty when he was brought down from a Neville challenge.
The Scottish had well and truly regained their foothold in the game after a rough start ot the second half, and received a golden opportunity to equalize in the form of a 77th minute penalty. McAllister received the ball in his own half, and Gascoigne backed off giving no ball pressure, McAllister took advantage of the extra time and played a searching diagonal dall forward to McCall running in behind. Striker Durie attacked the low cross at the near post, only to be felled by Adams and a spot kick given. McAllister stepped up to take the spot kick, but was denied by a crucial save from Seaman.
The penalty miss was to prove even more costly than expected for the Scots, as England went down the other end to double their lead a minute later with a moment of magic from Gascoigne.
Seaman launched a ball forward that was worked out wide to Anderton, who lifted a one time pass in front of the onrushing Gascoigne. Rangers midfielder Gascoigne lifted the ball over the head of Hendry with a sublime first touch, before volleying it home as it came down on the other side of the now falling defender. One of the most iconic goals in tournament history was followed by one of the most iconic celebrations, when Gascoigne laid down next to a pitchside water bottle, and his teammates recreated the infamous ‘dentist chair’ incident that had made such headlines in the tournament buildup.
With Scotland now shellshocked, Gascoigne cut inside and bounced a pass off a teammate for Anderton to collect and fire over the bar.
England cruised through the final stages with few issues, to go into their final group game against the Netherlands knowing a draw would be enough to guarantee progress into the knockout rounds.
England moved into a strong position to qualify for the quarter finals with this win, and Venables will have been pleased to see his star striker Shearer continue in good form with a second goal in as many games. The faith of Venables was paying off, after Shearer had entered the tournament riding a 21 month goal drought.
Goalkeeper Seaman was also showing himself to be an important figure for England in the tournament, with a penalty save here to accompany his sharp injury time save to gain a point against Switzerland.
With nobody playing particularly poorly, it was possible that Venables would field the same 11 for the third straight time against the Netherlands in the final group game for the Three Lions.
Scotland will have been disappointed with the end result, but played well for long spells and certainly showed more threat in attack here than they did in their 0-0 opening draw against the Netherlands.
To advance into the last eight, Scotland would have to beat Switzerland in their next game and also hope for an England win against the Dutch.
Veteran striker McCoist showed flashes of danger in his cameo off the bench here, and would be pushing for a start in the final game for a Scotland team that was yet to score a goal in the tournament.
53’ ENG Alan Shearer (Gary Neville) 1-0
79’ ENG Paul Gascoigne (Darren Anderton) 2-0
MAN OF THE MATCH
#17 LM Steve McManaman (England) – The flying winger was a key figure as England gained control of the game early in the second half, stretching the Scottish backline and setting the stage for Gazza’s late moment of magic.
3: LM Steve McManaman – Man of the Match
2: CM Gareth Southgate – An all around strong performance from the future England manager, bolstering the England midfield defensively in the first half, before dropping back into the defensive line and helping seal the clean sheet.
1: GK David Seaman – Came up string when needed and swayed the game with a penalty save, preventing a late Scottish equalizer before they were finished off by the second goal that followed seconds later.
3: CM Gary McAllister (Scotland) – Strong in defense, and full of composure and quality on the ball. McAllister kept possession ticking over all game and also showed his range with several defense splitting long passes forward.
2: CF Gordon Durie (Scotland) – A tough performance by the bloodied Durie, drawing foul after foul and showing himself to be a real threat attacking crosses. Won the penalty with a sharp near post run where Adams could only drag him to the ground.
1: LM Tosh McKinlay (Scotland) – Full of energetic runs forward and defensive work ethic, McKinlay was a consistent source of service into the area for the Tartan Army.