LONDON – Stand-in captain Wayne Rooney and strike partner Danny Welbeck netted a brace apiece as England saw off minnows San Marino 5-0 in their 2014 World Cup qualifying at Wembley Stadium this evening.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added the Three Lions’ fifth with his first senior goal as the hosts claimed a routine win over the team ranked joint lowest in the international rankings by FIFA.
Roy Hodgson’s men were as dominant as the scoreline suggests but took a while to hit their stride after a slow start that saw Theo Walcott go off injured after just 10 minutes following a rash challenge by goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini, with Aaron Lennon coming off the bench.
England were completely in control but failed to find the back of the net until the 35-minute mark, when Welbeck drew another foul from Simoncini in the box and Manchester United team-mate Rooney coolly converted from the penalty spot.
Welbeck doubled the scoreline with a cheeky backheel from a Lennon cross just three minutes later to wrap-up the hosts’ first-half scoring.
Rooney moved fifth in England’s all-time scoring rankings when he netted his 31st goal for his country to make it 3-0 after the break, driving home from the edge of the box.
And the Three Lions’ fourth goal of the night followed a familiar pattern as Welbeck struck again, latching onto a Tom Cleverley cross just two minutes later.
It was Gunners youngster Oxlade-Chamberlain that finished things off with an impressive finish, prodding home a ball in from the lively Leighton Baines.
The result took England three points clear at the top of Group H and in good heart for Tuesday’s crucial trip to Poland, even though Walcott must be rated as extremely doubtful after being forced off inside the opening five minutes.
Meanwhile Republic of Ireland suffered a demoralising 6-1 defeat at home to Germany in their World Cup qualifier at the Dublin Arena this evening.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s men were taught a harsh lesson as a ruthless Germany side made it three wins out of three at the top of Group C and left the Irish with a sense of perspective about their chances of making it through automatically.
Marco Reus broke the deadlock just after the half-hour mark with a fine finish after being denied what he felt should have been a penalty moments earlier. Reus then doubled Germany’s advantage before half-time following a sweeping move, and Joachim Low’s side were in no mood to take their foot off the gas in the second period.
Mesut Ozil made it 3-0 from the penalty spot when he stepped up to send Keiren Westwood the wrong way after Darren O’Dea had brought down Miroslav Klose.
Klose then got on the score sheet himself with a shot from a tight angle, moving him on to 65 international goals and just three behind Gerd Muller’s all-time German record.
Half-time substitute Toni Kroos got in on the act with a spectacular fifth in the 61st minute as he struck a powerful volley past Westwood from outside the area.
Kroos was not finished there, though, as he completed the rout with a stunning strike after a fine passing move.Andy Keogh pulled back a late goal for Ireland but it was scant consolation for the dejected Republic fans.
Other scores: Israel 6, Luxembourg 0; Finland 1, Georgia 1; Spain 4, Belarus 0; Sweden 2, Faroe Island 1; Czech Republic 3, Malta 1; Italy 3, Armenia 1; Bulgaria 1, Denmark 1; Iceland 2, Albania 1; Switzerland 1,Norway 1; Slovenia 2, Cyprus 1; Slovakia 2, Latvia 1; Greece 0, Bosnia 0; Wales 2, Scotland 1; Russia 1, Portugal 0; Romania 1, Turkey 0; Hungary 1, Estonia 0; Netherlands 3, Andorra 0; Belgium 3, Serbia 0; Croatia 2, Macedonia 0. Ukraine 0, Moldova 0; Lithuania 2, Liechtenstein 0; Kazakhstan 0, Austria.