Gareth Southgate enjoyed a straightforward but unchallenging introduction to international management as a second new England era in a month opened with a 2-0 victory over Malta in World Cup qualifying on Saturday.
Daniel Sturridge’s header from Jordan Henderson’s cross, and Dele Alli’s strike in the first half sealed the Group F win, with England frustrated by the 176th-ranked visitors in the second half, lacking dynamism and urgency up front.
Although the score was modest, 10th-ranked England still achieved a more convincing win than Italy did against Malta a year ago.
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Regardless, this performance is unlikely to be a factor when the Football Association decides whether to entrust Southgate with the job as Sam Allardyce’s permanent successor.
Southgate was rapidly promoted from the under-21s last week when Allardyce was dismissed over comments in a newspaper sting that left the FA doubting his integrity for its top job.
Allardyce was in charge only 67 days, replacing Roy Hodgson after England’s miserable European Championship loss to Iceland.
Allardyce won the first match on the road to the 2018 World Cup in Slovakia last month, but never got a chance to lead his team out at England’s national stadium as a result of his unguarded comments to undercover reporters. A British newspaper’s video showed Allardyce appearing to offer advice to fictitious businessmen on how to sidestep an outlawed player transfer practice, and also negotiating a 400,000 pound (about $500,000) public-speaking contract.
Southgate, whose only previous senior managerial role ended seven years ago with Middlesbrough, is viewed as encouragingly less colorful than the brash Allardyce for such a prestigious, high-profile job.
But he has only four games as interim manager, and the judgment of Southgate’s credentials is to come. After traveling to Slovenia for the next qualifier on Tuesday, England hosts Scotland and Spain next month in north London.
Later Saturday in Group F, Scotland hosts Lithuania and Slovakia plays Slovenia.