Three headed goals handed England a comfortable 3-0 victory over neighbours Scotland in European World Cup Qualifying Group F. It was a result that boosted temporary England manager Gareth Southgate’s hopes of landing the job on a permanent basis, while placing further pressure on Scotland boss Gordon Strachan.
Daniel Sturridge’s first half strike was added to in the second period by Liverpool team-mate Adam Lallana with defender Gary Cahill rounding off the scoring.
It was the 113th meeting between football’s oldest international rivals, but more than bragging rights were at stake with both sides in need of three points in the quest to reach the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018.
On Armistice Day, both sides sported black armbands with poppies on them and are likely to face sanction from football’s governing body FIFA whose rules prohibit the symbol from being worn.
After a fairly tepid start the hosts took the lead in the 23rd minute. Sturridge was left unmarked in the penalty area and he neatly headed Kyle Walker’s cross beyond Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon to hand England a 1-0 half-time lead, with Grant Hanley wasting Scotland’s best opportunity to equalise as his free header from 12 yards flew well over the bar.
Scotland started the second half brightly but after James Forrest and Robert Snodgrass had failed to take good chances they were punished on 50 minutes when Lallana found space to head Danny Rose’s centre past Gordon. The game was over as a contest eleven minutes later when Cahill made it 3-0, rising to head Wayne Rooney’s left wing corner inside the far post.
The result lifted England to the top of the qualification group and left Scotland languishing in fifth place and facing an uphill task to reach a first major finals in two decades. But it was the future of both managers which dominated the post-match discussion.
Strachan’s position as Scotland boss had already come under scrutiny following a disappointing start to the qualification campaign, but he once again refused to be drawn on his own future, instead looking to praise the effort of his players. He said, “If anybody thinks that at this moment in time I’m thinking about myself then you’re wrong. They [the players] have been tremendous for me. At this moment in time I’m thinking only about them”.
Southgate, who took temporary charge of England following Sam Allardyce’s exit, now looks well placed to be handed the reigns on a permanent basis. “I’ve loved it”, he said. “I’ve really enjoyed the role, I’ve enjoyed the responsibility. The rest is out of my hands”.
– Alistair Sargent, Correspondent (Sport)