Football: Euro 2000: Scholes' finishing conceals the flaws

Scotland 0 England 2 Scholes 21, 42 Half-time: 0-2 Attendance: 50,132
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KEVIN KEEGAN has never been a conventional manager and he hinted, in the aftermath of Saturday's Anglo-Scottish dust-up here, that he could well change a winning team for Wednesday's second leg at Wembley.

This may seem surprising but it would also be wise. The joy of winning, and the relative ease with which it was accomplished, should not be allowed to obscure the fact that England still have a long way to go before they can look ahead with confidence to Euro 2000.

Qualification seems probable after Saturday's 2-0 win, not least because of the poverty of Scotland's attack. However, England did not always pass the ball well and, though their self-control was a tribute to the way Keegan had prepared them, their inability, for long periods, to retain possession was not.

Keegan, who said he gave the team eight out of 10, took another selection gamble on Saturday, playing Sol Campbell at right-back and Jamie Redknapp in the Bermuda Triangle position of wide left. He duly disappeared.

Campbell, who had not played right-back for five years, looked as if he did so every week. Though helped by the fact that he had no direct opponent (Paul Ritchie appeared as obsessed with David Beckham as a schoolgirl) he dealt easily with any Scotsman who did stray into his domain and attacked the space to such good effect he made the first goal.

Having created a good opportunity for Michael Owen after 17 minutes, he was again allowed to run unchallenged for 20 yards before picking out Paul Scholes' run with a well-judged lob three minutes later.

Redknapp had been influential in that move as it was he, with Paul Ince, who had won the ball in midfield but, apart from the last 10 minutes, the Liverpool midfielder was peripheral. Keegan claimed it was Redknapp's best game for England, a verdict perhaps best explained by the absence of competition. Wise would be a suitable replacement for Wednesday. His temperament is volatile but, one presumes, Keegan must trust him or why would he have selected him? Not that Redknapp was helped by Phil Neville's performance behind him.

His passing was execrable and he and Tony Adams seemed never to have met, so poor was their understanding. An utter lack of alternatives, unless Keegan switches to 3-5-2, and plays Steve Guppy or Steve Froggatt, means he will keep his place.

The most likely change is to start with Andy Cole, whose movement and fitness seemed superior to Owen. He still needs a goal at international level, but that could be resolved on Wednesday as Scotland need to attack, and thus will leave gaps.

England have not lost by three clear goals at Wembley since the magical Magyars stunned the football world in 1953 and Scotland's performance will have to exceed all expectations. Since Hungary's 6-3 triumph only Gunter Netzer's Germany, in 1972, and Romario's Brazil, in 1996, who each won 3-1, have gained results which, if emulated, would put the Scots through.

It is true that, in the last 19 months, England have twice been beaten 2-0, which would force extra-time. However, Scotland are no more likely to find, by Wednesday, a Nicolas Anelka or Marcelo Salas, who scored the goals for France and Chile, than they are to discover a Hughie Gallacher or Denis Law.

To judge from the closing minutes of Saturday's match the Tartan Army are painfully aware of this. With three minutes to go, and the scoreboard vainly scrolling through the words to "Flower of Scotland", the only sounds that could be heard in Hampden Park were chants of "England, England" ringing out from the visitors enclosure, and seats tipping back elsewhere as their owners headed for the exits.

To their despair the match had gone as forecast. Scotland dominated the midfield exchanges, England had the edge where it mattered, goalscoring and goal-prevention. Both Scholes' goals, the second was a header from Beckham's fine free-kick, were beautifully taken. He could also have had a third, but for Owen's loss of control, and should have had a penalty when David Weir brought him down.

For all the possession enjoyed by John Collins, Barry Ferguson and Don Hutchison Scotland created fewer chances. Indeed, their best opening was a gift from the generally solid Ince and best effort a moment of individual brilliance. Each came a minute after Scholes' goals, each could have changed the mood of the match and, possibly, its pattern. Instead the former was spurned by Kevin Gallacher, who was otherwise always second best to Martin Keown, while the latter, an exquisite chip from Billy Dodds, struck the bar.

Dodds, who rarely escaped Adams, did test David Seaman with a shot on the turn early on but, in the second half, both strikers were anonymous. The only Scottish efforts in that half were from corners, Hutchison and Weir both heading over. In open play there was nothing, no movement, no one prepared to take their marker on, no aerial presence, no spark. England were able to sit back and absorb pressure, slowly leeching the Scots of their belief.

The suffering of the impotent Scots was exacerbated by the sight of Cole coming off the bench for England. Craig Brown had no such options but it was still surprising that he did not introduce Mark Burchill earlier, or Neil McCann at any stage. With Beckham more interested in defence than attack it seemed perverse to persist with Ritchie on the left flank - it almost seemed as if Brown had settled for a respectable 2-0 defeat rather than risk a humiliating one. Keegan may have his problems, but they are nothing compared to Brown's.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Sullivan (Wimbledon); Weir (Everton), Hendry (Rangers), Dailly (Blackburn Rovers); Burley (Celtic), Hutchison (Everton), Ferguson (Rangers), Collins (Everton), Ritchie (Hearts); Dodds (Dundee United), Gallacher (Newcastle). Substitutes: Burchill (Celtic) for Gallacher, 82.

ENGLAND (4-4-2): Seaman (Arsenal); Campbell (Tottenham), Keown (Arsenal), Adams (Arsenal), P Neville (Manchester United); Beckham (Manchester United), Ince (Middlesbrough), Scholes (Manchester United), Redknapp (Liverpool); Owen (Liverpool), Shearer (Newcastle).Substitutes: Cole (Manchester United) for Owen, 67.

Referee: M Diaz Vega (Spain).Bookings: Scotland: Hendry, Gallacher, Dailly, Ferguson, Hutchinson. England: Scholes, Redknapp, P Neville, Adams, Ince.

Man of the match: Keown.

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