Latecomer Lambert quells Scottish uprising
Rickie Lambert scored with his first touch as an England player to earn a 3-2 win over old enemies Scotland in a gripping friendly game at Wembley on Wednesday.
An old-fashioned target man, the 31-year-old Southampton striker had not even played in England's second tier until 2011, but he settled an absorbing match with a 70th-minute header just four minutes after rising from the bench.
Prior to that, Scotland had threatened to upstage the Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations on a drizzly, atmospheric night by twice taking the lead.
Goals in each half from James Morrison and Kenny Miller threatened to yield a memorable upset, only for Roy Hodgson's side to reply on each occasion through Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck before Lambert saved the day.
"I've been dreaming of that all my life. It means so much," said Lambert.
"I was trying to play it cool this week, but deep down I wanted to scream. It was brilliant."
Lambert's debut even managed to eclipse the first pre-season appearance of unsettled Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, who managed 66 minutes after a month of inaction due to hamstring and shoulder injuries.
Shock victors over Croatia in June, Scotland will rue the fact that they have only started to play now that World Cup qualification is out of sight.
England, meanwhile, will hope to show similar resolve, if not much greater defensive authority, when they resume their qualifying campaign with back-to-back games against Moldova and Ukraine next month.
It was 14 years since the old rivals had last met, and the presence of an estimated 20,000 rowdy Scotland fans for the sides' 111th meeting made for an untypically boisterous atmosphere inside the English national arena.
With United manager David Moyes in attendance as a television pundit, Rooney saw an early chance go begging when he miscued an attempted volley from Leighton Baines' cross.
It was Scotland, though, who made the breakthrough in the 11th minute, and it was a moment to forget for Joe Hart.
Morrison's 25-yard shot carried plenty of power, but although it was hit straight at Hart, the Manchester City goalkeeper allowed the slippery ball to cannon off him and into the net.
The Scottish fans were soon serenading their English counterparts with goading chants of 'Easy!', but 18 minutes later the hosts drew level when Walcott scored from Tom Cleverley's sublime first-time pass.
It was the Arsenal forward's fifth international goal and made him the first Englishman to score against Scotland at Wembley since Paul Gascoigne's famous volley at the 1996 European Championship.
Rooney could have crowned his display with a goal, but after being released by Steven Gerrard shortly before half-time, he was stopped in his tracks by an erroneously-raised offside flag.
England's sense of injustice was only heightened four minutes into the second period when Miller restored the Scots' lead with a fine goal.
The Vancouver Whitecaps frontman received a drilled pass from Alan Hutton with his back to goal, threw Gary Cahill off balance with a cunning feint, and then lashed a crisp left-foot shot into the bottom-left corner.
Once again Gordon Strachan's men could not protect their lead, however, and within four minutes Welbeck had equalised with a downward header from a Gerrard free-kick.
Lambert replaced Rooney mid-way through the half and promptly answered any questions about his ability to handle international football by imperiously converting a Baines corner only moments after coming on.
He could have claimed a brace, striking the post from close range in injury time and then shooting straight at Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor, but by then, the headlines were already his.
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