Young Lions thrash Azerbaijan
Stuart Pearce's England U21 side made a bright start to their Euro Championship qualifying campaign with a 6-0 rout of Azerbaijan.
Last Updated: 01/09/11 10:01pm
Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 side made a bright start to their European Championship qualifying campaign with a predictable rout of Azerbaijan.
Pearce claimed on Wednesday that reaching the 2013 finals in Israel would represent his toughest challenge yet but the Young Lions' Group Eight opener at Vicarage Road proved the easiest of starters as they hammered the visitors 6-0.
Man of the match Henri Lansbury scored twice and there was a debut brace for Craig Dawson, while new captain Jordan Henderson and substitute Martyn Waghorn also netted.
Thursday night was Pearce's chance to banish memories of the dismal display at June's finals in Denmark, where England failed to win a game.
Most of the squad from that tournament were denied the chance to make amends following the biennial turnover of playing staff that goes with under-21 football.
There were some survivors from Denmark, however, and two of them should have combined to put England ahead inside a minute tonight - Lansbury threading in Henderson, who spooned over the crossbar.
It looked ominous for the visitors when an unchallenged Dawson headed in Lansbury's corner less than four minutes later.
But, other than a deflected Nathan Delfouneso effort, Pearce's youngsters began to demonstrate the kind of failings that had cost their predecessors dear.
There was a lack of technique on the ball, including poor touch and control, although they were given enough space to get away with it.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced some exciting wing play, setting up England's second after 21 minutes when his cross was hooked home acrobatically by the retreating Lansbury.
Azerbaijan might have been down to 10 men when Amit Guluzade was spared a second yellow card for a cynical trip on Henderson, having already been booked for hauling back Jack Rodwell.
A mazy 40-yard run from Oxlade-Chamberlain ended when the new Arsenal player went down too easily in the box, while Lansbury and Connor Wickham both blasted over from 25 yards as the visitors' defence floundered.
And it was 3-0 on the stroke of half-time when a nice exchange between Henderson and Matthew Briggs finished with the former curling a fierce strike home from 25 yards.
Azerbaijan withdrew the booked Guluzade for Javid Imamverdiyev during the interval and they almost pulled a goal back when the lively Jihan Ozkara shot too close to Jack Butland.
The new goalkeeper really did have to be alert, however, when he tipped over Ozkara's back-header from a free-kick after Jon Flanagan had been booked for felling Gara Garayev.
England eventually woke up and Briggs stung the palms of Osman Umarov, while Oxlade-Chamberlain sent Henderson's near-post cross wide.
Pearce withdrew Wickham and Delfouneso for Waghorn and local hero Marvin Sordell midway through the half.
The latter should have scored a fourth when he cushioned a volley just wide but it did not matter as, minutes later, Umarov parried Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross straight to Lansbury, who hooked home his second.
Dawson also sent a corner wide before Waghorn exposed Umarov again with 11 minutes left.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had just been withdrawn for Jonjo Shelvey when Waghorn tried his luck from 25 yards, his admittedly powerful strike sailing over the head of the goalkeeper.
Shelvey picked up a needless yellow and Eshgin Guliyev left the field on a stretcher before Dawson glanced home his second from Lansbury's corner a minute from time.