Friday, 07 September, 2012
Lampard, Defoe, Milner and Baines all on target as England register opening group victory.
by Jamie Bradbury
England got off to a flying start in their 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign as they cruised to victory away in Moldova.
A brace for Frank Lampard inside 30 minutes put the game out of reach of the home side, before Jermain Defoe added the third before half-time.
Goals from James Milner and Leighton Baines in the closing stages made it a five-star night for England in Chisinau.
Any fears that it could have been a tricky night for Roy Hodgson’s men in their opening Group H match were put to rest after just three minutes as they headed for what proved to be a fairly routine victory.
Tom Cleverley, who was starting in his first competitive match for England, had a shot at goal that was blocked by Simion Bulgaru. The Manchester United midfielder instantly appealed for a penalty after the ball hit the defender’s arm, and referee Paulus Van Boekel pointed straight to the spot.
Lampard, the man who had scored his seven previous penalties for England, stepped up to take it and made no mistake giving ‘keeper Stanislav Namasco little chance.
The play was almost exclusively with the visitors for the first 20 minutes. Defoe shot wide from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross, before Namasco denied both the Spurs and Arsenal men from inside the box.
Moldova’s first foray forward produced a decent effort on goal from midfielder Artur Patras. But though his 25-yard left-footer looked good, it was always rising over Joe Hart’s bar. Alexandru Gatcan’s low shot was the only other of note to pose any serious danger, but a deflection took it away for a corner.
It was Hart’s opposite number who was by far the busier. Namasco was happy to see skipper Steven Gerrard arrow a free-kick that shaved the woodwork, while he found Glen Johnson’s 18-yard effort, following a trademark run from the Liverpool right-back, straightforward to deal with.
There was nothing he could do, however, when Johnson clipped in a cross towards the penalty spot on the half-hour mark and Lampard arrived with perfect timing to direct a header inside the Moldovan’s upright.
The game was well and truly wrapped up three minutes later, when Defoe celebrated his 50th England cap with his 17th goal. Chamberlain was the creator, but it was the diagonal run from Defoe that enabled the young winger to thread the ball into the area into the path of his lively team mate.
And when Defoe shaped his body, it was clear he had only one thing on his mind as he cracked the ball low inside Namasco’s near post.
The lead, and the comfort in which Hodgson’s team were enjoying it, allowed the Manager to make some changes, resting Gerrard at the break with Michael Carrick coming on. Chamberlain and Defoe also made way for Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck later on, but it didn’t mean the goals stopped.
It did take 30 second half minutes for the Three Lions to extend their lead, though, but when the fourth arrived it came from an unlikely source as Milner registered his first Senior goal.
A breakaway attack looked to have put Cleverley through into the box. When his angle was closed down he squared to Welbeck, who rolled out the other side to Walcott. With all sights on goal covered by the Moldovans, the ball ended up in Milner’s path and the Manchester City midfielder stroked home from the edge of the area finding the only hole through the crowd.
If that goal was precise, the final one of a successful night was helped by a large piece of fortune as Baines also collected his first for England. A free-kick in familiar territory for the Everton defender, just outside the box to the right of goal, was just asking for him to wrap his left foot around it.
He tried one for the near post, but failed to beat the wall. Unfortunately for the Moldovans, the ball looped high into the air, dropping perfectly for the Three Lions into the unguarded side of the net.
An almost perfect start to Hodgson’s first qualifying campaign at the helm, but for John Terry's late injury that saw him limp off for treatment. It’ll get much tougher along the road to Brazil, though, starting on Tuesday night at Wembley against Ukraine.
Tickets are still on sale for the match against Ukraine, so make sure you're there for the first home Qualifier of Hodgson's era.