The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Oxlade-Chamberlain hails Hampden hero Griffiths for a pair of incredible free-kicks
ALEX Oxlade-Chamberlain hailed Leigh Griffiths for the stunning free-kicks that took Scotland to the edge of heaven and admitted no goalkeeper in world football could have come close to saving them.
The Arsenal winger had come off the bench to hand England the lead at Hampden with 20 minutes to play, but was left shellshocked when Celtic striker Griffiths scored with two set-pieces in the last three minutes of normal time to earn what looked like an incredible victory for Gordon Strachan’s side.
Harry Kane pounced in the third minute of injurytime to ensure a sensational closing spell ended with honours even, but OxladeChamberlain made a point of singling out Griffiths.
‘Joe Hart is very good at saving free-kicks, but I’ve got to give credit to Leigh Griffiths. His free-kicks were magnificent,’ he said.
‘I was in the wall for both of them and saw them go all the way in. As soon as he hit them both, I thought: “Oh, we’re in trouble here”.
‘I don’t think any keeper could have stopped them.
‘You can tell it is a good one when you are in the wall because you know the trajectory. If it just goes over the wall, not too high, you know he has got the height part of it right.
‘Free-kicks are so difficult to score from. For him to do it twice in those circumstances was pretty incredible. When he lined up the second one, I just thought: “Surely not…”.
‘But he was full of confidence after the first one went in and he’s obviously a great free-kick taker with great technique. ‘Then, we have an uphill battle. I looked round my team-mates and saw 11 guys who hadn’t given up. To come from 2-1 down and get a draw is a little success.’
Kane ranked his late leveller, converted from a Raheem Sterling cross, as among the most important of his career given the fact the visit to Hampden was his first as England captain ‘It is up at the top. It was a special day,’ he said.
‘What a ball in it was. I was just thinking about getting good contact on it.
‘Scotland is no easy place to come and, especially when you are 2-1 down in stoppage-time, it makes it that much sweeter.’
Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrated wildly in front of the Scotland support after his goal, but he insists there was no malice intended.
‘When I went to the crowd, it was the natural emotions of England versus Scotland. It’s a massive game for both nations,’ he said.
‘There’s a lot of pride and emotion and it came out in my celebrations, as it did in theirs. That’s the beauty of the fixture. They give it as much as we give them.
‘I knew I was going to the Scotland end. The England fans were a bit far for me.
‘It’s just football, isn’t it? When they scored their two goals, their celebrations were huge and it was the same when Harry got our equaliser right at the end.
‘The atmosphere was brilliant. The England fans were magnificent. They travelled up in their thousands and got right behind us and the Scotland fans were amazing too.’
Oxlade-Chamberlain actually enjoyed ‘God Save The Queen’ being drowned out by jeers from the Tartan Army and insists it fired up his team.
‘The national anthem, when the Scots were booing us, gave us a gee-up. And their anthem was amazing for them,’ he smiled. ‘It was an amazing occasion and an atmosphere I was delighted to be involved in.’
Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly believes the Auld Enemy encounter remains an international clash different to any other.
‘You just have to step out on that pitch and you feel it,’ he said. ‘It has got a lot of history, dating way back before football, this fixture.’