The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain hails Ham­p­den hero Grif­fiths for a pair of in­cred­i­ble free-kicks

- By Gary Keown AT HAM­P­DEN PARK

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.’

 ??  ?? STRONG AS OX: Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain grabbed Eng­land’s opener
STRONG AS OX: Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain grabbed Eng­land’s opener

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