LONDON: Gareth Southgate edged closer to being appointed England's permanent manager with a victory that weakened Gordon Strachan's grip on the Scotland job.
A trio of headers from Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill ensured a 3-0 victory on Friday that appeared far more convincing on the scoreboard than the actual performance by England in the 113th meeting of international football's oldest rivals.
It gave Southgate seven points from the three competitive matches of his interim spell in charge of England following Sam Allardyce's abrupt departure after one match in charge over unguarded comments to undercover reporters.
Whether Southgate is handed the job permanently will be determined after England hosts Spain in a friendly on Tuesday. While the displays under Southgate have lacked the dynamism expected by fans of a team of Premier League stars, they weren't any better in recent years either. England was embarrassed at the European Championship in June, with Roy Hodgson quitting after a last-16 loss to Iceland.
"What I'm really pleased about is that I was given the task of picking the job up in a very difficult situation for everybody and I feel like we've prepared the team really well," Southgate said. "The rest is out of my hands. I've loved it. I've really enjoyed the role. I've enjoyed the responsibility. I've enjoyed the challenge of every part of it."
If Southgate is handed a contract, rather than returning to the under-21s team, he might not be facing Strachan in the opposite dugout when England travels to Scotland in June.
The spirited Scots did make the hosts uncomfortable at times at Wembley Stadium but had nothing to show for it. Strachan's side slumped to fifth place, six points behind unbeaten England, and the manager will face further scrutiny over his future as Scotland's hopes of making its first tournament since the 1998 World Cup fade.
Strachan said he was only thinking about the impact of the "cruel" result of his players,
"If anyone thinks at this moment in time I'm thinking about myself you are wrong," Strachan told reporters.
"Probably when I'm just about to die, I'll think, 'How did you get on Gordon?' Not a bad life," Strachan added. "At the moment in time ... it's nothing to do with me."
Slovenia is second after Benjamin Verbic clinched a 1-0 at bottom-placed Malta. Slovakia is third after beating Lithuania 4-0 through Adam Nemec's header before strikes from Juraj Kucka, Martin Skrtel and Marek Hamsik. Only the group winners automatically qualify for the 2018 finals in Russia.
ENGLAND 3, SCOTLAND 0
Unsurprisingly, the anthems were sung against a chorus of boos from rival fans — 144 years after this derby was first played.
But the cross-border rivals were united in the buildup to the game by a two-week public spat with FIFA over their desire to mark Armistice Day by wearing poppies which commemorate British Commonwealth forces who have died on duty since World War I.
England and Scotland are set to be fined by FIFA for breaching rules banning political, religious, personal or commercial messages on official uniforms and equipment.
After a pre-match minute of silence, the Scots pressed with purpose from kickoff but they couldn't keep it up and fell behind in the 24th minute.
Raheem Sterling's initial shot deflected to the right flank and Kyle Walker returned the ball into the penalty area where an unmarked Sturridge angled a low header past goalkeeper Craig Gordon. It was a rare bright moment for the Liverpool striker, who has dropped in the pecking order at Anfield and has scored no goals in the league this season.
"It wasn't as comfortable as we would have liked," Lallana said. "We started the game very sloppily. We said a few things to each other at halftime and the manager did."
Scotland missed opportunities to equalize at the start of the second half and England punished the visitors after five minutes with Lallana latching onto Rose's cross with a header. Cahill completed a miserable trip south of the border for Scotland in the 61st minute when he was left unmarked to connect with captain Wayne Rooney's corner.
"I don't know if we can work any harder than we do," Strachan said.
Although the game largely passed off peacefully, objects were thrown onto the field in north London in the second half, with England goalkeeper Joe Hart having to clear them.