The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Berra be­lieves all is not lost af­ter forc­ing Kane and Co to go the dis­tance

- By Graeme Croser AT HAM­P­DEN PARK

CHRISTOPHE BERRA thought the plan to si­lence Harry Kane had worked to per­fec­tion.

Gor­don Strachan had shuf­fled his pack for the visit of Gareth South­gate’s team, nam­ing what was a back five to nul­lify and frus­trate an Eng­land team spear­headed by a player who had net­ted 35 goals last sea­son for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

The Eng­land cap­tain had his mo­ments, forc­ing Kieran Tier­ney into a clear­ance off the line and flash­ing a header that re­quired a Craig Gor­don save, but deep in stop­page time looked like he was set to be out­shone by Scot­land’s own No9.

But as Ham­p­den bounced in ju­bi­la­tion at Leigh Grif­fiths’ re­mark­able free-kick brace, the Spurs golden boy pounced to de­liver the fi­nal, de­ci­sive mo­ment to this most dra­matic of games.

Peel­ing away as sub­sti­tute Ra­heem Ster­ling cut back to swing in a cross from the left, Kane met the ball at the back post and de­liv­ered a non­cha­lant side-foot fin­ish to earn Eng­land a 2-2 draw.

‘That’s what Harry gets paid to do,’ said Berra. ‘He was very quiet but then he gets one half-chance in the sec­ond half and takes it.

‘He’s a top striker, that’s why he plays for one of the best teams in the (English) Pre­mier League. And I’m sure he’ll go on to even big­ger and bet­ter things.

‘When you look at his record for Spurs to­wards the end of the sea­son it was un­real. We de­serve credit for lim­it­ing him.’

With Ikechi Anya and Andy Robert­son act­ing as wing-backs, Berra played as the right most of three cen­tral de­fend­ers along­side Char­lie Mul­grew and Tier­ney.

Al­though Adam Lal­lana and Dele Alli probed with in­tent, the ex­tra man helped Scot­land choke the space and lim­ited the op­por­tu­ni­ties for the vis­it­ing group lead­ers.

‘We tried some­thing dif­fer­ent and it frus­trated Eng­land,’ con­tin­ued Berra, who will re­join Hearts this sum­mer af­ter reach­ing the end of his con­tract with Ip­swich Town. ‘They had a lot of ball in front of us but didn’t go any­where with it.

‘We pressed them when we could and sur­ren­dered pos­ses­sion at times. But we lim­ited their chances to score.’

There was an el­e­ment of for­tune for South­gate’s team as sub­sti­tute Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain col­lected the ball from a throw-in and bur­rowed through a Scott Brown chal­lenge be­fore hit­ting a shot which an un­sighted Craig Gor­don could only parry high into the net.

With Scot­land chas­ing the game, Strachan changed shape and the move paid off with the two Grif­fiths goals in the 87th and 90th min­utes.

‘I had cramp af­ter 70-odd min­utes but I ran about like a mad man af­ter those two goals,’ smiled Berra. ‘We’d changed to a back four by that point and, when Leigh scored, it looked like we were go­ing to do it. It’s just sur­real.’

The al­ter­ation may have helped set Scot­land on the front foot but the sac­ri­fice of a de­fender left the space into which Kane crept to find his fin­ish at the de­noue­ment.

Berra added: ‘When Leigh scored the sec­ond, I didn’t think we’d won it. We knew they’d flood guys for­ward into the box.

‘I’d have to see our de­fend­ing again at the goals, but Eng­land are a qual­ity side and in foot­ball it’s about those small mar­gins. It’s typ­i­cal Scot­land — we never do any­thing the easy way.

‘If we’d won, the dress­ing room would have been bounc­ing. Don’t get me wrong, be­fore the game we’d have taken a draw. But the man­ner of it was frus­trat­ing.

‘We’re bit­terly dis­ap­pointed but there’s also a sense of pride be­cause they’re a top team.’

As un­tidy as the ma­jor­ity of yes­ter­day’s match was, it rep­re­sented a sig­nif­i­cant up­grade on the per­for­mance de­liv­ered by Scot­land at Wem­b­ley in Novem­ber, when three headed goals sealed a sim­ple vic­tory for Eng­land.

The draw keeps Strachan’s team in the hunt for the run­ners-up spot in Group F, a plac­ing that may de­liver a two-legged play-off in the bid to qual­ify for next sum­mer’s fi­nals in Rus­sia.

Scot­land haven’t played with any great élan in this cam­paign but the fact they re­main contenders is, ac­cord­ing to Berra, a tes­ta­ment to the play­ers’ col­lec­tive will.

‘We’re never go­ing to be the best team in the world and we haven’t got the best play­ers,’ he ad­mit­ted. ‘On pa­per, Eng­land’s play­ers are a lot bet­ter than us, they play at big­ger clubs.

‘But if you were watch­ing that game to­day, we more than matched them. That’s why we have to be proud of our­selves.

‘We’re dig­ging in, we’re scor­ing goals. We still have a lot to play for with four winnable games to go.

‘We have Slo­vakia at home, and we’ve al­ready beaten Slove­nia. There are tough away games but if

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