GORDON Strachan admitted Scotland fell short of their recently achieved standards as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat against England at Celtic Park last night.
The euphoria of last Friday night’s crucial 1-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win over Republic of Ireland at the same venue was replaced by a realisation of how far Strachan’s men remain behind the elite nations of international football.
The Scots were simply outclassed for lengthy spells by Roy Hodgson’s team for whom captain Wayne Rooney was the chief tormentor with two goals, taking his overall tally to 46, just three behind Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time England scoring record.
While Strachan was keen to point out that the victory over their Irish Group D rivals was the most significant result of the latest gathering of his squad, he could not hide his dismay with Scotland’s largely ineffective display against their oldest international rivals.
“We let ourselves down, to be honest,” said Strachan. “We haven’t let ourselves down over the past ten days, but we have in this game. We are disappointed with the performance.
“When we met ten days ago, the point of the exercise was to get three points against Ireland, which we did. I was proud of the way we went about it.
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“I’ll try and keep Irish game fresh in memory and it will be in a few weeks. At the moment, though, we have to deal with this game and it’s not great fun.
“We know we can play better but we need to be at our maximum to play against a top side like that. That’s probably the best performance against us for a long time.
“I thought the intensity, pace and strength England played at was fantastic – without the ball, especially. It kind of spooked our players. I think England must have watched our game against Ireland and thought ‘right, we’ll go for them’. They did that, when our players were maybe expecting them to sit back and wait. England have a team full of Champions League players and they showed that tonight. We were maybe mentally fatigued from Friday, which is something we need to look at.”
Scotland trailed 1-0 at half-time to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal before Rooney doubled England’s lead two minutes into the second half. Andrew Robertson pulled one back for the home side before Rooney completed his brace.
“When it was 1-0, I thought ‘okay, there’s not been many attempts in the game’,” added Strachan. “I felt if we played better we could get something out of the game. But then two minutes into the second half we gave the ball away and lost the second goal.
“That was a feature of our play, giving the ball away under pressure and also without pressure. The team who looked after the ball better was England. Unless you are very, very lucky, the outcome is going to be what you got tonight. I’m sure I’ll find something to be positive about in the next couple of days. There are things I can take from it, positive and negative, and learn from them.
“Some of our players came from Championship football and they were playing against Champions League players. It is a big step up. When you take on a good England side, which they were tonight, you need 10 out of 11 of your players at their best to beat them.”
England managed Hodgson was understandably satisfied.
I’m very pleased with that,” said Hodgson. “I thought we showed our intentions from the off, started the game very well. I can’t think of many periods in the game where I was concerned we were losing control, and some of the attacking movements were very good. Our defending was also sharp. You can’t ask for much more.”
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