World Cup Qualifiers: Easy game for England

World Cup Qualifiers: Easy game for England



(Steven Gerrard 12, Rickie Lambert 26,

Danny Welbeck 45+1, 50)


Like assembling flatpack furniture, England's 4-0 victory over Moldova was an inglorious task that simply had to be completed.

There is no glory here, no magical memory - just a feeling of satisfaction at a job well done.

On Saturday morning's (Singapore time) result put Roy Hodgson's men at the top of Group H, level on points with Montenegro, but 15 goals better off in goal difference.

All attention now turns to Kiev, where the real work begins. The Ukraine started their campaign slowly, changed managers halfway through but are now into their stride.

If they win on Wednesday, England's destiny will be out of their hands. Anything else, and Hodgson can secure qualification with home wins over Poland and Montenegro.

There was never any doubt that England would secure this victory. In fact, there was so little drama that only a little over 60,000 people turned up, leaving Wembley with vast swathes of empty seats.

Moldova certainly lived down to expectations.

Rough in the tackle, toothless up front with a goalkeeper so poor that he would struggle to justify his performance to a pub team, this was as straightforward as international football gets.

Once again, Hodgson put his faith in the fading powers of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, bolstered by the presence of young Jack Wilshere.

It worked a treat. With Wilshere's energy, and the experience of the two old stagers, England's midfield was fluid, dynamic and highly effective.

A glorious link-up between Lampard and Gerrard saw the Liverpool skipper open the scoring with a ripsnorter of a shot from the edge of the box.

Perhaps if someone had used the pair of them with a third midfielder, or perhaps if one of them had chosen to hold his ground and stay deep, this would have been one of the most formidable partnerships in European football. Alas, the formula has been found too late.

Hodgson has proved in the past that he prefers big names to form players, but Southampton striker Rickie Lambert is giving him a headache.

For the second time in two games, Lambert put his name on the scoresheet with a powerful header, but it was the rest of his game that was so impressive.

Lambert was everywhere, dropping deep to win the ball in the air and to bring teammates into play, pulling wide to distract defenders, hustling and bustling in the box and set-pieces. This was the complete centre forward's performance.

An elegant dink for Danny Welbeck to score the fourth goal was the cherry on the cake. With that one delicate action, the last Englishman to speak of him as if he had won his place in the team in a raffle fell silent.

Lambert should not be patronised. He is playing his way into this side on merit.

The only disappointment of the match came when Welbeck, impressive again with two goals, was booked for kicking the ball away.

Welbeck, who had just cut in on goal when the referee's whistle blew, blasted at goal approximately 0.8 seconds later, a crime the officials deemed worth of a yellow card. He will now miss Wednesday's crucial game in Kiev.

Hodgson, usually so calm, was incandescent with rage at the decision, unleashing his fury on the fourth official. Gary Neville, his coach, complained bitterly to the referee at half-time, accompanying him all the way down the tunnel.

But nothing can be done. Uefa are not in the habit of overturning cautions.

That leaves Hodgson with another headache for Wednesday, one that is rather more acute than Lambert's form in front of goal.

This will be the most important game of the qualifying campaign and, as much as 4-0 victory can boost morale, there is nothing of this game that can be taken to Kiev.

This was a cakewalk. Wednesday will be the real deal.

ENGLAND: Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Ashley Cole (Leighton Baines 45), Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere (Ross Barkley 60), Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Rickie Lambert (James Milner 71)

MOLDOVA: Stanislav Namasco, Igor Armas, Victor Golovatenco, Alexandru Epureanu, Simion Bulgaru (Aleandru Suvorov 58), Artur Ionita (Alexandru Onica 19), Alexandru Antoniuc, Serghei Gheorghiev (Alexandru Pascenco 85), Vitaliy Bordiyan, Eugen Sidorenco, Aleksandru Dedov

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