Scotland has enjoyed a superb 2014 under Gordon Strachan’s tenure but tonight’s friendly match against England proved to be a bridge too far.
Friday’s 1-0 win against Ireland had given the Tartan Army hope that the national team can end their lengthy absence from a major international tournament by reaching Euro 2016 and raised expectations ahead of the visit of the Auld Enemy.
But Strachan’s side found England too hot to handle at Parkhead with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nodding Roy Hodgson’s men in front after 32 minutes before Wayne Rooney marked his 101st England appearance by heading home from close range only two minutes into the second half.
Andy Robertson reduced the deficit with seven minutes remaining but Rooney regained England’s two-goal advantage only a couple of minutes later.
Gordon Strachan’s side had plenty of reasons to feel optimistic ahead of meeting England in Scotland for the first time in 15 years.
The feel-good factor was in full force at Parkhead following Friday’s 1-0 win against Ireland and a run of four successive clean sheets at home and only two defeats in their previous 11 matches meant the Tartan Army descended on the east end of Glasgow sensing a famous Scottish victory over the Auld Enemy.
Strachan had initially intended to make wholesale changes to the team that defeated the Irish but admitted he was forced to rethink that decision after so many of his first-choice players told him they were desperate to play.
In the end, he made only one alteration with Derby County forward Chris Martin, who represented England at under-19 level, stepping in for the injured Steven Fletcher.
By contrast, England manager Roy Hodgson gave his fringe players a chance to shine, making six changes to the team that started in the 3-1 win against Slovenia. Former Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster, on his return to Parkhead, was among those drafted in as he got the nod ahead of Ben Foster in place of the absent Joe Hart.
The match got under way following a minute’s applause in memory of Scotland supporter Nathan McSeveney, 20, who died when he fell in a Celtic Park stairwell following Friday’s win against Ireland.
It was the visitors who threatened first inside a noisy and boisterous Parkhead with the unmarked Gary Cahill heading over from a Stewart Downing corner.
Scotland received another warning soon after when Steven Whittaker squandered possession and allowed Wayne Rooney to release Danny Welbeck but the Arsenal forward was denied by David Marshall.
But the hosts began to assert themselves with Whittaker twice denied from the edge of the area before tempers began to flare following a robust challenge from Welbeck on Shaun Maloney.
The game was being played at an enjoyable tempo and the pace of Ikechi Anya and Andy Robertson was causing England plenty of problems down the left wing.
But after a period of Scottish dominance, England responded in emphatic fashion.
The opening goal stemmed from a sumptuous cross from Jack Wilshere who expertly floated the ball over a static Scottish defence for his Arsenal teammate Oxlade-Chamberlain to nod beyond the despairing Marshall.
First blood to England and, worryingly for Scotland, the visitors made it to half-time without Forster being forced into any meaningful action.
Strachan made three changes at the break with David Marshall, Scott Brown and Chris Martin replaced by Craig Gordon, Darren Fletcher and James Morrison.
It was four years since Gordon’s last Scotland cap following a horrendous period of injuries and the Celtic goalkeeper’s first involvement was to pick the ball out of his net.
England doubled their advantage when, following some penalty area pinball, Rooney pounced on Robertson’s poor touch to head the ball past the Celtic goalkeeper.
Scotland, to their credit, almost found a route back into the match but Forster was able to tip Russell Martin’s looping header over the bar for a fruitless corner.
England were now dominating possession with Scotland struggling to stifle their stranglehold on possession without Brown.
On came the uncapped Stevie May to raise the Tartan Army who had gone quiet since the second goal.
However it was another substitute, Johnny Russell, who made the telling contribution.
The Derby County man had only just replaced Maloney when he cut the ball back for Andy Robertson to slide the ball home with seven minutes left on the clock.
But any hopes of a Scottish comeback quickly disappeared when Rooney converted an Adam Lallana cross two minutes later to put the result beyond doubt.