The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Bit of a mixed bag for Gordon who is left kicking himself
BRENDAN RODGERS has subjected Craig Gordon to plenty of practice with the ball at his feet this season.
All of those training-ground hours were needed yesterday as Scotland repeatedly found themselves pinned back and looking for their goalkeeper to provide an out ball.
Challenged by his manager to improve, the Celtic No 1 has become proficient at recycling possession but made a rare error at the moment which opened up an untidy yet remarkable World Cup qualifier and propelled it towards the most dramatic of conclusions.
A bad bounce forced Kieran Tierney to stretch and deliver a heavy backpass towards his club-mate as Harry Kane bore down. Panicked, the 34-year-old hit the ball out for a throw-in.
As Gordon said, there was plenty scope for reorganisation as England substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wove inside from the throw, eventually producing a shot that the keeper could only parry into the net.
However, there was at least a share of the blame to be taken afterwards.
‘It wasn’t the tidiest of backpasses and I had to chase it,’ he admitted. ‘But it went out for a throw and we had plenty time to organise from there — it didn’t exactly come from that.
‘The shot came through a lot of bodies, everyone tried to get in the way of it.
‘It might even have taken a slight deflection but it was a very late reaction to get my hand up. I didn’t see it until very late and sometimes that’s what happens when people are trying to get their bodies in.’
If the loss of the first goal in the 70th minute was frustrating to Scotland, it was nothing compared to the feeling of anguish that met Harry Kane’s stoppage-time equaliser.
Having experienced the delirium of watching two fantastic Leigh Griffiths freekicks beat Joe Hart in either corner, Gordon admitted the sight of the ball dropping out of the air and into the Spurs striker’s path was dispiriting in the extreme. ‘It was disappointing to allow that to happen so late on,’ he said. ‘Maybe there was a little bit of tiredness creeping in and we haven’t been able to hang on.
‘We should have held on to the ball a bit better on the counter and try to run it into the corner.
‘They got the ball back and we were disorganised. We didn’t get out as well as we should have and left a space at the back post.
‘I thought Kane was going to head it but he volleyed it.’
There may have been question marks over the keeper’s failure to claim Raheem Sterling’s cross, but Gordon could point to his own personal contribution towards keeping Scotland in the game until that point.
An improvised first-half save which saw him deny Marcus Rashford with his feet was good, as were the strong hands he applied to a Jake Livermore dive. Arguably best of all was the stop he made to turn Eric Dier’s free-kick over the bar after Griffiths had made it 2-1.
‘I thought we were going to win it but it’s still a point,’ he surmised. ‘We wanted to take something from the game and we have managed to do that.
‘The circumstances of it don’t feel as good but it’s a draw. It was an untidy game and that probably suited us.
‘They couldn’t get into any rhythm and we did that side of it well. We restricted them.
‘Leigh has produced two unbelievable hits from freekicks and gave us something to hold on to but it wasn’t to be.’
Gordon has experienced elation with Scotland before only to ultimately be denied the prize of qualification. The two victories over France in the Euro 2008 qualifiers stand out but were ultimately insufficient.
This time, he believes there is a genuine prospect of at least making the play-offs.
‘It’s too early to say but it could end up being a great point for us,’ he added. ‘Maybe we can win the remaining games to get the play-off spot.’