Job done for England
As part of our snap-shots features, we look at England's 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over minnows San Marino.
Last Updated: 12/10/12 11:25pm
The gulf in ranking between England and their visitors was vastly apparent on Friday night as Roy Hodgson's men eased to a 5-0 victory over an overawed San Marino side - but the hosts failed to dazzle.
Stand-in captain Wayne Rooney and Manchester United team-mate Danny Welbeck both scored two goals, while the lively Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added the home side's fifth.
While there were periods of frustration, England will be glad to have claimed another three points ahead of their trip to Poland.
England manager Roy Hodgson made six changes for the Wembley clash, with one eye obviously on the meeting with Poland next week. Ashley Cole was rested for that encounter in the wake of his Twitter misdemeanour, and his replacement at left-back, Leighton Baines, proved to be one of the Three Lions' brighter performers in a largely unimpressive display. Wayne Rooney was handed the captain's armband for his country for the first time in a competitive match and marked the occasion with a brace that saw him move fifth in England's all-time top scorer chart. Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker made his first competitive start in place of the suspended Glen Johnson, with Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard also serving a ban. Gary Cahill, Michael Carrick and Danny Welbeck all stepped in, while the injured Frank Lampard was missing and so were the three players one booking away from suspension - James Milner, Jermaine Defoe and Joleon Lescott. Theo Walcott was the other player to be recalled to Hodgson's starting XI but his appearance was shortlived as he went off injured after just 10 minutes following a clattering challenge from visiting goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini.
San Marino are ranked as the joint-worst team in the world by FIFA and, as expected, England dominated proceedings from start to finish but it was not an inspiring affair as the visitors completely parked the bus, with just one glimpse of a chance coming for the minnows in the second half which came to nothing and Joe Hart completely redundant in the Three Lions goal. Other than that half-opportunity from Danilo Rinaldi, England were completely in control but should have scored more given the attacking options at their disposal and the nature of their opposition. Welbeck grew into the game and produced two bright finishes and Rooney also added two, one from the spot, but there was the feeling he could have imposed himself more. Lennon, who played the majority of the match after replacing Walcott, showed some good pace out on the right but couldn't find the end product, while he did not link up with right-back and Tottenham team-mate Walker as effectively as they have done previously at club level. On the other flank, Baines was more dangerous going forward and provided several chances as one of the best performers on the pitch, while Oxlade-Chamberlain contributed a lively display, often cutting inside to inspire an attack.
Hodgson's first change was an enforced one as Lennon came on for the injured Walcott and while the winger worked hard, he struggled to create as many chances as he perhaps should have. The introduction of Jonjo Shelvey, making his first senior appearance for England, came in the 66th minute when he replaced the uninspiring Carrick, who had failed to open up the opposition in midfield, with his only real moment of note coming when his thunderbolt shot from range struck the crossbar. Shelvey brought fresh energy to the side and created some chances against an evidently tiring San Marino side but ultimately couldn't add anything in the way of goals. Andy Carroll was Hodgson's final swap for skipper Rooney, denying him the chance of a hat-trick, and the towering West Ham striker did not have much of an impact, with his most notable opportunity wasted as he nodded over a decent ball.
The Wembley encounter wasn't the most physical of clashes and Lithuanian referee Gediminas Mazeika was not really challenged. However, it could be argued the official should have sent off San Marino goalkeeper Simoncini in the first half after he followed up his heavy tackle on Walcott with the challenge that felled Welbeck for the penalty. Fortunately for the visitors, the keeper wasn't punished for the first and got away with a booking.
Those that were predicting a cricket scoreline from the mismatched encounter will have been left largely frustrated as England struggled to make the most of their dominance, with the encounter again throwing up weaknesses in Hodgson's side such as a lack of creativity and passing that was sometimes slow and sloppy. However, the Three Lions got the job done and will now take on Poland with a crucial three points under their belt and top of Group G. Even though there were periods of frustration, it was a comfortable win for the hosts, with positives coming in the form of Baines' display and promising signs from youngsters Oxlade-Chamberlain and Welbeck. In regards to San Marino, those who branded the game pointless ahead of kick-off will have been left feeling justified, with the minnows having now conceded 136 goals in 23 away games since they last scored and looking totally out of their depth in London.