LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Gareth Southgate's plea for England to play with adventure and style was answered only fitfully as his reign as caretaker manager began with a 2-0 win over Malta in a World Cup Group F qualifier on Saturday.
It took half an hour for the former England defender's selection to break down a stubborn rearguard but thanks to first-half goals from Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli they did go some way to meeting Southgate's demand.
However, in the first game since Sam Allardyce's embarrassing departure as manager after one match and 67 days in charge, the win that gives England maximum points at the top of the group brought only the odd smile back to a Wembley full house of 81,781.
Southgate, who has four matches to secure the job full-time, had a right to feel irritated that, despite completely outclassing a side ranked 176th in the world, his team did not have the wit to make their second-half domination count with a hatful of goals. (Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Tony Jimenez)