The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Berra believes all is not lost after forcing Kane and Co to go the distance
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