England barely troubled as they brush aside San Marino

Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck
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Wayne Rooney edged one goal closer to Sir Bobby Charlton’s record as England coasted past the clothes salesman, the factory worker and the bar owner from San Marino with a simple if not spectacular 5-0 win at Wembley.

If England needed any proof they were up against the 208th-best side in the world, it came inside four minutes when Aldo Simoncini committed an error rarely even seen in Sunday League matches up and down the country.

The San Marino goalkeeper palmed the ball down with both hands and picked it up to give away a free-kick inside his own box.

Simoncini, clearly racked with nerves, punched away Rooney’s 10-yard set-piece.

England camped out in the away half but they were finding it hard to navigate their way through the rigidly assembled San Marino team.

The England crowd began to get anxious. They had come to see a goal-fest, but inside 20 minutes they had only witnessed three shots on target.

They did not have long to wait, though, as England took the lead in the 24th minute.

The goal game in farcical circumstances. Simoncini raced off his line attempting to collect James Milner’s hanging cross, but instead he tripped up over Luca Tosic’s foot and Jagielka headed into the empty goal.

The Everton defender almost looked embarrassed to have scored in such a bizarre fashion, but England had their first goal of the game.

England doubled their lead just before half-time thanks to some sloppy defending from the visitors. Moments after denying Welbeck with a stunning save, Simoncini was picking Rooney’s penalty out of his net after the England captain was taken out by Andy Selva.

Hodgson brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana for Jordan Henderson and Sterling at the break.

The move paid off immediately as Oxlade-Chamberlain charged Mirko Palazzi’s clearance down and drove in a low cross which Welbeck turned home.

Lallana thought he had bagged his first goal for England just after the hour mark when he inadvertently diverted Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot past Simoncini.

But just as he began to celebrate his fortuitous ‘goal’, the linesman flagged for offside and the referee blew up to cancel out the strike.

Replays showed Lallana was, in fact, onside – something that did not escape Hodgson’s notice on the bench.

Townsend’s introduction for Welbeck also gave England more width and they looked far more effective.

The Tottenham winger got in behind the San Marino defence and teed up Jack Wilshere, but he headed straight at the goalkeeper.

By now San Marino were clearly tired having chased the ball around the vast Wembley pitch for over an hour.

Townsend used his pace to good effect, earning a yard on his marker before banging a low drive past Simoncini from 20 yards.

With 16 minutes left, Joe Hart finally made his first save. It was a simple one from a weak Vitaioli free-kick.

It was not long before England were on the attack again, though. The hosts peppered the away goal and the ball crept past Simoncini for a fifth time when Della Valle turned into his own net from Rooney’s cross.

Thomas Christiansen

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