A trio of thundering headers gave England a thumping victory over their oldest foes as Scotland were swept aside 3-0 in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
Daniel Sturridge’s bullet header in the first half and equally impressive efforts 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 already look bleak with Gordon Strachan’s side sitting second bottom in the standings.
The result could have contrasting impacts for both team’s managers with England’s interim boss Gareth Southgate having strengthened his case to be handed the job on a permanent basis and Strachan now looking increasingly vulnerable.
As they promised in the buildup, 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 1.
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, harrying and 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 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 but Sterling somehow scooped his finish over from almost under the cross bar.