12 Nov 2016

England crush Scotland at Wembly

2:18 pm on 12 November 2016

A trio of thundering headers gave England a crushing victory over their oldest foes as Scotland were swept aside 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

Gary Cahill (L) celebrates his goal with Wayne Rooney.

Gary Cahill (L) celebrates his goal with Wayne Rooney. Photo: Photosport

Daniel Sturridge's bullet first-half header and equally clinical strikes after the break from Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill ensured England emerged from international football's oldest fixture having consolidated their lead at the top of Group F.

England have 10 points from four games, six clear of Scotland, whose qualification chances look bleak with Gordon Strachan's side sitting second bottom in the standings.

The result could have contrasting impacts for both managers with England interim boss Gareth Southgate having strengthened his case to be handed the job on a permanent basis and Strachan now looking increasingly vulnerable.

"There were some passages of play where we really played well, used the ball well, and some passages where we were really sloppy," Southgate told ITV.

"On another day we will be punished for mistakes. In the second two thirds of the pitch we were fabulous. We created good goal-scoring opportunities and took the goals well."

As they promised in the build-up, both teams potentially defied FIFA rules against making political statements by wearing poppies on black armbands in commemoration of the armistice that ended World War One.

Yet that was where the united front between the old rivals ended as hostilities commenced soon after the kickoff, with Scotland flying into tackles and enjoying the better of the opening tussles, pressing England back in their own half.

Strachan, who made sweeping changes to the side that lost to Slovakia in their previous qualifier, had clearly set his team up to make England uncomfortable and it was a gameplan that worked to perfection until the 24th minute.

A sprawling Scottish defender blocked Raheem Sterling's shot, but the ball fell kindly for Kyle Walker whose driven cross was angled superbly into the net by a stooping Sturridge.

Having broken the visitors' resistance, England conspired to hand them a route back into the match two minutes later and would have been pegged back had Scotland defender Grant Hanley not headed hopelessly over the bar when completely unmarked.

That was the first of a series of let-offs for England, who survived two heart-in-mouth moments at the start of the second half when James Forrest pulled a shot hideously wide from 10 metres and Robert Snodgrass had one blocked from a similar range.

Within moments, however, England put the encounter to bed showing the sort of quality in front of goal Scotland had lacked, as Danny Rose's cross from the left found Lallana on the penalty spot to head powerfully past Craig Gordon.

England's third arrived on 60 minutes as Wayne Rooney's corner found Cahill, who flashed his near-post header past Gordon and into the far corner.

The defeat was already ensured but England should have rubbed further salt into Scotland's wounds, only for Sterling to somehow scoop his finish over from almost under the crossbar.

England lead the standings on 10 points from four games, two ahead of Slovenia with Slovakia two points further back in third. Lithuania are fourth on five points, one ahead of Scotland.

- Reuters