England duly beat San Marino 5-0 to maintain their perfect start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign but laboured for long periods against the joint-worst team in the world at a half-full Wembley on Thursday.
London: England duly beat San Marino 5-0 to maintain their perfect start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign but laboured for long periods against the joint-worst team in the world at a half-full Wembley on Thursday.
England went ahead when Phil Jagielka headed home a corner after 24 minutes, doubled their lead when Wayne Rooney scored his 42nd England goal from a 43rd-minute penalty and added a third in the 49th minute when Danny Welbeck smashed home a cross from his Arsenal team mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Andros Townsend, who replaced Welbeck on 66 minutes, made it 4-0 six minutes after coming on, scoring with a fierce shot that bounced in between goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini and his near post.
The fifth was an own goal from Alessandro Della Valle, who deflected a cross shot from Rooney into his own net after 77 minutes.
While the result was convincing, it did not reflect how poor England were in the first half or how they were frustrated for much of the match by a blanket San Marino defence and by Simoncini, who made one superb save from Welbeck in the 42nd minute and several other good stops in the second half.
San Marino spent most of the match in their own half and despite England having to work hard for the win, there was never any doubt the visitors were heading for their 66th successive defeat in World Cup and European Championship qualifiers.
"The fact is, in the first half of this game, a very fit and healthy team got 10 men behind the ball," England manager Roy Hodgson told ITV.
"We had to wear them down and keep doing the right things, knowing if you do that and you score one or two goals in the second half, it will open up and you can score lots and lots of goals."
England, who beat Switzerland 2-0 in their opening qualifier last month, now have six points in Group E and play in Estonia on Sunday.
The only question before the match was how many goals would England score, having won all their four previous encounters against San Marino, ranked with Bhutan joint 208th and last in the FIFA rankings, with a goal tally of 26-1.
With huge swathes of Wembley`s upper tiers empty, the 55,000 crowd watched the opening exchanges in muted tones as England, camped in their opponents` half, failed to make the breakthrough until Jagielka scored.
The second goal did not come until just before halftime when Rooney smashed home a penalty after being kicked in the face by San Marino forward Andy Selva.
It was his 42nd goal in his 98th international and brought him closer to Bobby Charlton`s all-time England record haul of 49.
Adam Lallana was unlucky to see what would have been his first goal for England disallowed for offside when he deflected home a fierce shot from Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Rooney then failed to chip the keeper when through on goal and Townsend had a late shot cleared off the line.
It was not a classic victory by any standard, but keeps England on course for a place in the expanded 24-team finals in France in two years` time.