Kane keeps England on track to deny Scotland a famous victory
GLASGOW, Scotland -- Here are three points from Scotland and England's 2-2 draw in World Cup qualifying.
1. Kane saves England, denies Scotland
An injury-time goal from captain Harry Kane saved England from defeat to Scotland by salvaging a 2-2 draw at Hampden Park after Leigh Griffiths thought he had won the game with two free kicks in the last four minutes of normal time. Earlier, England had gone ahead through substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The result doesn't make a huge amount of difference to either side's qualifying chances. England remain top of Group F, while Scotland's hopes of reaching the World Cup in Russia remain remote. But the point might prove more significant to Strachan and his chances of staying in a job than anything else.
The game started with the sort of frantic pace that the deafening atmosphere demanded: Passing was imprecise, tackles flew, and Scott Brown got booked for trying to demolish Dele Alli's Achilles in the third minute. Chris Smalling almost produced a moment of the purest slapstick when he sliced a clearance over his own bar, but after that, the game calmed down.
England were the better team but were hardly playing scintillating football, and their best chance of the opening half-hour came when Kane failed to keep down a left-footed half-volley. It was thus something of a surprise that by the 20th minute, Scotland had gone ultra-defensive, barely allowing nine of their outfield players to advance higher than 40 yards from their own goal. Griffiths, on his own up front, resembled an energetic dog chasing a ball around as his owner lolled in a deck chair.
The hosts were a little more adventurous in the second half and thought they had a penalty when Griffiths tumbled under a clumsy challenge from Kyle Walker, but referee Paolo Tagliavento peered at the incident before waving away Scotland protests as the crowd seethed.
Jake Livermore, quietly impressive at the base of midfield for England, had a shot that took a colossal deflection before clanking into the post, but otherwise the away side struggled to create any meaningful chances. Kane didn't have much by way of service, but the Premier League's top scorer looked out of sorts.
But on 70 minutes came the breakthrough. As Scotland defenders dithered in the area, Oxlade-Chamberlain, brought on for Marcus Rashford to add a little more spark to England's attack, pounced on the loose ball. He cut in before taking a left-footed shot that Craig Gordon, who reacted to most shots as if the ball were on fire all day, let through his defences.
As the clock ticked to 86 minutes, it looked like England would see things out. Then came two nearly identical goals in three minutes that sent Scottish supporters into ecstasy. First, Gary Cahill was penalised around 25 yards from goal, allowing Griffiths to step up and curl a perfect shot over the wall and beyond Joe Hart.
Then another free kick was given, this time a little harshly, as Jake Livermore slipped rather than deliberately fouled Chris Martin. Hart moved to cover more of the side into which Griffiths put his first kick, so the striker simply placed the ball over the wall and into the other corner.
The game was over, surely. But in the third minute of stoppage time, Raheem Sterling crossed from the left, and Kane made up for his previously quiet display by arriving at the back post to slide the ball home.
2. Familiar faults for Southgate to ponder
England are usually pretty good at qualifiers. In fact, they haven't lost one since 2009, when Fabio Capello's already qualified team lost to Ukraine. You have to go back as far as that soggy 2007 night at Wembley, when Steve McClaren's men lost to Croatia, for the last time they lost a "live" match of this type.
But Gareth Southgate's side came within seconds of losing this one, and ultimately, the draw might prove more valuable for England's mentality than damaging to their chances of qualifying for Russia. It will take a significant collapse for them to miss out, but this game provided a few concerns for Southgate to ponder.
First, there's the inability to break down stubborn opponents. England had most of the play in the first half and much of the second but couldn't find a way through Scotland's massed ranks, despite the assorted talents of Kane, Alli, Rashford and Adam Lallana.
This is not a Scotland side with an especially watertight defence, so all of those Premier League stars might have expected to do better. Then there's the issue of throwing away a lead, though there wasn't a massive amount that Hart could do about Scotland's first free kick, and he overcompensated for the second.
Southgate has been working on England's mental strength in recent months, trying to avoid a repeat of the Iceland game at Euro 2016, which was archly referenced by Scotland fans rolling out the "thunderclap" during the second half here. At the very least, the positive that England's manager will be able to take is that England didn't wilt in Glasgow as they did last summer in Nice.
3. Job-saving draw for Strachan?
It was something of a surprise when Gordon Strachan managed to stay in his job after Scotland's 3-0 defeat to England in November. It wasn't so much the result as the nature of the limp and unadventurous performance. For 87 minutes, it looked like a similar story on Saturday.
After an initial burst of energy, when it looked like Scotland would try to press and harry England into errors, Strachan's men sat back and seemed perfectly happy to string most of their team across the pitch, near the edge of their own area, and hope to keep England at bay. When Oxlade-Chamberlain scored, Strachan's departure loomed, but then up stepped Griffiths, only to be denied all the glory by Kane.
The prevailing Scottish emotion must be confusing after this game. A draw might feel like a defeat after a 94th-minute equaliser, but on the other hand, they were losing at the 86-minute mark. For Strachan, the point and the rice-paper-thin gap between a draw and a victory could be enough to save his job.
Ultimately, though, this might prove to be a negative for Scotland if it keeps Strachan in the job when a fresh start might have been preferable -- not that he will care for the moment about that.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.