Football: Impoverished Scotland must now go for broke

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The Independent Online
I THOUGHT it was a good result for England. I have no doubt Kevin Keegan would have settled for that scoreline before the match. Winning at Hampden Park is never an easy thing to do and the English players will be delighted with the way they played.

I think the main plus was the manner of the win. This was a good, very workman-like performance, rather than a brilliant one. But then again, I believe that in this type of situation, when you are playing away from home in a difficult environment, the way England played was spot on.

Scotland had a couple of chances early in the first half and Kevin Gallacher, in particular, should have done better when the ball broke free and he only had David Seaman to beat. Had he not struck the ball against the keeper's legs, the result might have been very different.

What really stood out for me, though - and the reason why we are now in such a commanding position - were two well-taken goals. The first goal was really top-class. The way Scholes chested the ball down and away from the Scotland defence was brilliant. But his finish was even better. He was actually facing away from the goal and running towards the corner flag. I don't know how he did it, but he must have noticed the Scotland keeper, Neil Sullivan, coming off his line and then turned the ball back past him the other way. Bearing in mind the pressure he was under, it was a fantastic goal.

That goal really settled us down. I wouldn't say it was the turning point, because we were never under any sustained pressure during the game. What I will say, though, is that the goal came at a crucial time. After the first frenzied 20 minutes, whoever took the lead was always going to be in the driving seat. The opening goal in any match is always important and yesterday's was no exception. To be honest, from that point on we had the edge.

Scholes' second goal in effect killed the game and we were able to sit back after that. And we should have had another. I think it was a clear penalty in the second half. It was just after half-time and Scholes, who had turned his marker brilliantly, was caught. Had the referee awarded the spot-kick, it would have finished the game, and the tie, off.

England were strong at the back and, significantly, got stronger as the game went on. Seaman was only called upon a couple of times in the first 45 minutes, and had a quiet second half. As for Beckham, he wasn't nullified and his crossing, not least for the second goal, was excellent.

I think that Craig Brown will now change his plans for the second leg. Scotland didn't cause us enough problems coming forward and he'll have to come up with something different on Wednesday. In effect, they have to go for broke.

England have unquestionably taken a giant step towards qualification for next summer's European Championship, and it was a solid performance. But Kevin and his team should not book their hotel rooms quite yet. I believe that the game is not over. Everybody might think the job is done, but there is still a second leg to be played at Wembley on Wednesday and anything could happen there. It looks comfortable at the moment, but there's plenty of football left to be played.

If Scotland score first, for example, it becomes a completely different proposition. The chances of Scotland scoring twice, let alone three times, at Wembley are remote - not least because they lack a natural finisher - but they will give it a go early on, and if they can nick a goal, then it's game on again.

I'm sure Kevin will be reminding his players they must keep their concentration and save their celebrations for when the job is completed. I have no doubt the players themselves, especially the senior ones, will be more than aware of the dangers of complacency and very professional about the situation. There's too much at stake, too much to lose, and none of the England boys will want to miss out on Euro 2000 now.

Jimmy Armfield was

talking to Alex Hayes