England win with ease: Hodgson’s men put five past San Marino
England (14/1 to win Euro 2016) made relatively easy work of San Marino, and enjoyed what was, on the surface, a resounding 5-0 win in front of their home fans, to temporarily top Group E on goal difference.
Despite the headline-grabbing result, however, Roy Hodgson’s side did little of note in an encounter that was there was there for the taking, with few seizing what could have been a golden opportunity to impress.
The Three Lions boasted four different scorers on an evening where they took their time getting into top gear, with Merseyside derby hero Phil Jagielka returning to the fold for the first time since England’s World Cup debacle.
Everton’s man of the moment found himself amongst the goals yet again, opening the floodgates with an easy header, as keeper/accountant Also Simoncini fumbled his lines by falling over in the box.
Wayne Rooney was the headline act in what was a fairly routine and slightly lacklustre victory, as the skipper won, and converted, a penalty for his side just before the break. San Marino striker Andy Selva raised his boot too high, giving the Manchester United forward the chance to double England’s lead with a powerful spot-kick.
Whilst it may not have been the most memorable goal of Rooney’s career, it was his 42nd in a Three Lions shirt, putting him just seven behind record scorer and World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton. He is, however, the first England player ever to get 30 competitive strikes.
Rooney’s former Red Devils strike partner Danny Welbeck also got in on the act, and continues to enhance his international stats in Daniel Sturridge’s absence. The Arsenal attacker benefitted from Roy Hodgson’s half time substitutions; changes which saw limp Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling exchanged for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.
England improved after the switches, ramping up the pressure on a San Marino side who were offering little resistance. Oxlade-Chamberlain gave the Three Lions an injection of pace and width, combining with clubmate Welbeck to make it 3-0. The fleet-footed winger sent in a low cross for Welbeck, who duly dispatched to rack up his third goal in two games.
Rooney, whose tail was up in the search for his second, saw a series of efforts rebuffed by Simoncini, who was keen to make amends for earlier blunders, whilst Lallana saw his backheel, and what would have been his first international goal, ruled offside.
It took final substitute Andros Townsend to break San Marino’s backline again, bypassing the midfield blockade with a much-needed moment of inspiration and a strong, curling shot from distance.
England’s captain appeared anxious to score from open play in a clash where the home fans were palpably willing their heroes to dazzle, but it wasn’t to be. Rooney’s part in the final goal, however, summed up the Three Lions’ muted performance, as they cashed in on another slice of luck and the misfortune of their opposition.
The United Skipper’s cross deflected off defender Della Valle, who cause his goalkeeper further blushes by scoring his second own goal in as many outings against the Three Lions, ending a haphazard evening for both hosts and visitors.
England should face a tougher task against next opponents Estonia, and will surely have to show more adventure and intent to keep their 100 per cent Euro 2016 qualifiers record in tact.