San Marino 0-8 England
By Nicholas Veevers
It was a result that England were expected to get and a game in which a high scoreline was anticipated.
And Roy Hodgson’s men delivered in San Marino on Friday, as they hit eight goals against their hosts to head into next week’s game with Montenegro on top form.
It was the first time the Three Lions had scored eight in an international match since 1987, when they beat Turkey at Wembley.
Strikes from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Frank Lampard, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, a brace from Jermain Defoe and an own goal ensured the three points and real boost to the goals-scored column in Group H.
And even though San Marino are one of the lowest ranked nations in world football, it was the style, efficiency and way in which England went about their business which will please Hodgson the most.
The England Manager spoke in the build-up about his squad letting their football do the talking and they left no-one in any doubt of their authority in the first half.
England’s intentions were clear from the off, taking on what was a ten man rearguard defending from the edge of their own area, with invention and probe.
The first opening came after ten minutes, when Rooney nodded down to Chamberlain in the box, allowing the Arsenal man to lift a shot over ‘keeper Aldo Simoncini, only to see it bounce off the top of the bar.
It wasn’t a long wait before we had the first goal though and it was San Marino’s Alessandro Della Valle who opened the scoring a minute later.
Lampard’s raking pass to the left picked out Leighton Baines’ sprint forward. The left-back’s cross was heading straight for Rooney, but Della Valle beat him to it and could only haplessly turn the ball into his own goal.
England had to wait nearly 20 minutes for their second, but it was worth the wait as it signalled a flurry and impressive variety of strikes.
Firstly, Chamberlain picked the ball up on the right from Kyle Walker before venturing into the middle and trading passes with Rooney. Chamberlain’s touch took him past another defender, before he smashed a left-footer past Simoncini.
Rooney was at the heart of things again in the 36th minute, collecting a pass from Baines in the box before lifting a pass to the far post for Chamberlain. He headed the ball back into the six yard box, where Defoe was waiting to tap home from close range.
Ashley Young then got in on the act with the best goal of the evening three minutes later. San Marino paid the price of standing off Young and the Manchester United man gladly punished them by smashing a shot into the roof of the net from 25 yards. A fine strike, no matter who it was against.
England weren’t finished either, as Baines again burst down the left before pulling the ball back into the area. Rooney stepped over it, allowing skipper Lampard to slide home a low shot and make it 5-0 at the break.
The second half was less than ten minutes old before England got their sixth. Tom Cleverley was caught 25 yards out by an ugly challenge from Davide Simoncini. The defender had done his brother in goal no favours, as Rooney made no mistake with the resulting free-kick by curling over the wall and past the other Simoncini.
Having done his work for the night, Rooney was replaced by Daniel Sturridge soon after and the new man should have made it seven just before the hour mark.
Lampard fed Chamberlain on the right, and when he chipped a cross to the far post, Sturridge headed wide from five yards.
Sturridge soon made amends for his earlier miss though, as a finely placed cross from Young picked out the Liverpool striker who guided his header on target to make it 7-0 with his first senior goal.
And Defoe grabbed his second of the night and England’s eighth, when he back-flicked Walker’s cross home in the 77th minute.
That proved to be the end of the action in front of goal, but with no cautions or injuries for Hodgson to worry about, he will now take his squad on to Montenegro for what looks like England’s biggest qualifier of the campaign so far.