England achieve goals at their ease


Group H England 5 San Marino 0:THE FARCE of this occasion was probably best summed up midway through the second half. Ezequiel Danilo, a part-time Argentinian-Sammarinese footballer who probably should forget giving up his normal job in a furniture manufacturers, ambled away from Gary Cahill and bore down on Joe Hart’s goal.

The home support would normally wince at the threat, but the vast majority actually roared encouragement as the forward skewed his shot wide.

England departed with their thumping victory, albeit with only glimpses of panache and with their goals scored in flurries. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cute lob for the fifth was the most memorable, though arguably the best news for Roy Hodgson last night came in Moldova where Ukraine, contenders in Group H, were held.

Over-elaboration had impeded the hosts more than any Sammarinese solidity. Everything they summoned was panic-stricken, their attempts to resist reliant upon sheer number of bodies clogging up England’s advances. If the ball was cleared it was generally at a scramble. Survival only ever felt temporary.

Even so, when Michael Carrick thumped a long-range shot against the crossbar just after the half-hour, the ball cannoning down on to Aldo Simoncini’s outstretched hand only for Danny Welbeck to crunch the loose ball on to a post, the home support’s faith briefly wavered. They need not have worried. Within four minutes the hosts had registered twice and the management could start planning for Poland again.

Those preparations had influenced team selection here. Jermain Defoe, Joleon Lescott and James Milner, all likely starters in Warsaw, had been left to survey the scene from the bench to avoid a caution that would cost them a place against the Poles.

Ashley Cole, too, put his feet up from the start. For all his precautions, though, Hodgson may now have to do without Theo Walcott next week. The Arsenal forward was clattered by Simoncini in the opening five minutes and the shuddering shoulder charge sent the winger sprawling.

Walcott was dazed and confused when he eventually got to his feet, edging around the perimeter of the pitch with the help of a medic before slumping on to a stretcher near the corner flag.

His world was still spinning as he was carried down the tunnel before departing for hospital for a precautionary scan on a chest injury. England’s penalty would have to wait, Welbeck eventually tripped by an onrushing Simoncini – an accountant – for Wayne Rooney to convert from the spot.

Eking goals from the stand-in skipper had been one of Hodgson’s objectives from this mismatch. Pepping Welbeck’s confidence after a scoreless start to his season at Manchester United was surely another, the 21-year-old duly conjuring another back-heeled flick from Aaron Lennon’s pull-back to double the lead via the goalkeeper’s boot.

It was similar to the goal he scored against Sweden at Euro 2012 and suggested a landslide was back on. More reflective of the home side’s dominance at that stage were the raucous cheers – there were three choruses alone in the opening half – that greeted Joe Hart’s every touch.

Welbeck’s second was from close-range, a tap-in after Tom Cleverley had found the by-line, and moments after Rooney properly found his range. A proper test now awaits in Warsaw.

Guardian Service

ENGLAND: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines, Walcott (Lennon 10), Carrick (Shelvey 66), Cleverley, Oxlade- Chamberlain, Welbeck, Rooney (Carroll 73). Subs not used: Ruddy, Cole, Lescott, Shawcross, Milner, Adam Johnson, Defoe, Forster.

SAN MARINO: Aldo Simoncini, Fabio Vitaioli (Bacciocchi 83), Davide Simoncini, Brolli, Palazzi, Cibelli, Coppini (Buscarini 75), Rinaldi (Selva 78), Della Valle, Gasperoni, Cervellini. Subs not used: Valentini, Bollini, Marani, Mazza, Vannucci, Matteo Vitaioli. Booked: Aldo Simoncini, Rinaldi.

Referee: G Mazeika(Lithuania).

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