was one of those games that players sometimes dread, games you know
you should win, and win well, but the job still had to be done and in
did just that.
really are the minnows of the group, in fact, the minnows of World
football, so it was an unenviable task for
they knuckled down to their task well and it was soon evident how the
pattern of the game would develop.
had all the possession from the first whistle and as early as the
third minute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was firing in a fierce long range
shot. Goalkeeper Aldo
Simoncini, whose name you will see mentioned a great deal in this
report, made the first, and probably best, of his many saves, when
tipping the Arsenal player's shot over the bar.
The goalkeeper was then in the action two minutes later, but
this time for a very different reason.
Theo Walcott was sent clear and Simoncini rushed out of his
goal to meet Walcott on the edge of his goal area but inside the box.
To call the challenge reckless would be kind on the keeper, and
Walcott felt the full force of what was a, Saturday afternoon at the
local park, kind of challenge!
The winger was taken out of the match, literally and eventually
taken off to hospital, such was the concern for his injuries.
The referee meanwhile deemed the challenge fair and didn't even
book the goalkeeper. The
least it should have been was a yellow card and a penalty!
Aaron Lennon was sent on to replace Walcott when it was realised
the number seven was out of the game, and over the next few minutes
Wayne Rooney almost put Tom Cleverley through, then missed with a
header following a Leighton Baines corner and finally saw a shot
somehow scrambled away by Simoncini, a good start for the newest
England captain, in his first day on the job.
On 26 minutes Rooney headed over from a good
position and as soon as England
tried to progress through the middle they were crowded out by the
number of players San Marino
packed the edge of their box with.
The key was obviously to attack wide and Baines was especially
lively down the left.
Lennon, too, looked good and after one clever move with Cleverley a
cross came in and Rooney headed wide when he really should have
Just after the half-hour mark there was a
flurry of activity as good work by Danny Welbeck set up his club
colleague Michael Carrick and the midfielder fired in a terrific shot
which beat the goalkeeper but crashed back off the crossbar.
Welbeck was following up but was off balance and he could only
manage to hit the post with his shot.
A real double let-off for the visitors but a minute later, the
breakthrough finally arrived.
Welbeck attacked through the inside-left channel and as the
keeper came out for another of his reckless challenges, this time
Welbeck touched the ball around him and the goalkeeper's momentum
brought the striker down.
This time the punishment fitted the crime as a booking and a penalty
award followed! With Frank
Lampard missing from the team it was left to the skipper to take the
responsibility for the spot-kick.
He duly whacked the ball into the net for his first goal of the
On 37 minutes, just two minutes after the
first goal, England
doubled their tally. This
time a lovely pass from Cleverley, who was having an excellent game,
sent Lennon free. His cut
back from the byeline was flicked in by Welbeck at the near post, in a
similar way to the goal he scored in the Euros against
It was all England
now, as it had been from the first whistle, and Rooney had another go
with Simoncini diving full length to tip the ball around a post.
Then in injury time of the first-half Oxlade-Chamberlain forced
the goalkeeper into another good save.
It was eight minutes after the restart before
created their next chance.
They had all the possession but lacked a few ideas when it came to the
final third of the pitch.
But on 53 minutes Carrick should have scored only for his shot to be
blocked by the legs of the diving Simoncini.
A minute after that miss Gary Cahill somehow contrived to
mishit a shot when it seemed he must score.
The pressure continued though and Oxlade-Chamberlain had yet
another shot scuffed away by the overworked goalkeeper.
Baines then sent in a series of crosses, all of which came to
nothing, and at this stage England
were permanently camped in and around the
San Marino penalty box.
It was surely just a matter of time before another goal
To be fair
kept their patient build up going and continued to pass and move well.
It was only that final pass that was missing.
For their part San Marino
defended stubbornly, it was all they had to offer, and their defenders
kept putting in a toe or two to thwart the
attack. Baines then
scraped the bar with a free-kick whilst Danilo Rinaldi was booked for
a foul on Cleverley.
Shortly afterwards though the San Marino lone forward raced clear and
for a split second it looked as though England would be caught out.
But Rinaldi shot woefully wide and still Joe Hart had not had
to use his hands.
On 66 minutes Jonjo Shelvey made his
debut for Carrick and almost immediately Lennon's cross only just
eluded Welbeck. Finally,
on 70 minutes, England
scored that elusive third goal.
It stemmed from a lovely long raking pass from Shelvey out to
Baines. The full-back
headed across goal, Lennon touched it on and Rooney curled a
delightful shot home with panache, his second of the night and a goal
that takes him ahead of Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and the one and
only Sir Tom Finney in the England goalscoring chart.
Rooney is now on 31 goals for his country, not a bad way to
celebrate being captain for the [second] time.
Just as in the first half, one goal was
quickly followed by another.
This time good work down the right between Walker and Cleverley
ended with the latter crossing low and hard to the near post.
Welbeck was alert and quickest to the ball as he, too, scored
his second of the night.
On 72 minutes Rooney's work was done as he
was taken off to be replaced by Andy Carroll.
also made changes but the pressure continued and Shelvey could have
capped his debut with a goal but shot weakly.
But on 76 minutes
rounded off the scoring with a delightful moment.
More fine play by Baines, Welbeck and Cleverley saw the ball
drop to Oxlade-Chamberlain, and the youngster created history with his
goal. It was the first
time a father and son had scored for
England, as his father Mark had
scored for England
way back in 1982 against Luxembourg.
Now his son Alex had done it too, and it was a good goal as he
managed to clip a clever shot over the keeper's head.
Other chances came and went as the half drew
to a close, notably when Shelvey and Oxlade-Chamberlain had further
efforts on goal. In the 92nd
minute there was a first, as Hart managed to touch the ball with his
hands for the first time.
So ended an easy win for England, as expected, but good performances,
especially from Baines, Cleverley, Rooney, Welbeck and
Oxlade-Chamberlain will give Roy Hodgson food for thought.
Now he must ponder his selection for the much harder task that
awaits in Warsaw.
As for San Marino,
well, they worked hard in defence, didn't cave in and in Simoncini
they had the busiest player on the pitch.
All in all a satisfactory performance and
three more welcome points for England.