England showed exactly why it is ranked 203 places above San Marino in the FIFA rankings, enjoying complete domination over the micro-state minnows and boosting the team's goal difference ahead of Tuesday’s crucial clash with group leader Montenegro.
England took an early lead through Alessandro Della Valle’s own goal, who skewed Leighton Baines’ cross into the far corner of the net, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled the Three Lions’ advantage.
Jermain Defoe, Ashley Young and Frank Lampard, captaining the side, all added to the scoreline before the halftime whistle, and the rout continued after the restart with Wayne Rooney dispatching a 20-yard free kick. Daniel Sturridge also struck late on before Defoe grabbed a second.
Injuries and withdrawals dictated Hodgson’s selections, with Oxlade-Chamberlain starting in the absence of injured Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott. With Rio Ferdinand in Qatar, Chris Smalling and Joleon Lescott lined up in central defense, while Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole were rested.
San Marino manager, and P.E. Teacher, Giampaolo Mazza surprisingly left Danilo Rinaldi out of his starting XI – the furniture company employee is the only player in La Serenissima’s squad to have scored an international goal.
England exerted its superiority over the home side immediately, with San Marino retreating deep inside its own half. It took La Serenissima just 8.3 seconds to score the last time England visited the micro-state in 1993, this time it took 12 minutes for a blue shirt to find the back of the net.
Unfortunately for the home side, however, center back Della Valle was left embarrassed as he sliced the ball past his own keeper, Aldo Simoncini, to hand England an early lead. Baines’ low cross was heading towards Wayne Rooney until the 30-year-old defender diverted the ball into his own net.
With almost half an hour played, the Three Lions struck again. Oxlade-Chamberlain tricked his way infield and played a cute one-two with Rooney before firing a left-footed shot past Simoncini.
The Arsenal winger’s strike opened the floodgates at the Stadio Olympico, with Defoe finding the back of the net moments later, but the flag was up for offside. It didn’t matter. Barely a minute had passed when Oxlade-Chamberlain headed Rooney’s deep cross back across goal for Defoe to prod into an empty net from a yard out. This time it counted.
Soon after, Young added a fantastic fourth goal, firing the ball past Simoncini via the underside of the crossbar from 25-yards out. Lampard piled more misery on the home side just before the break, calmly passing the ball into the back of the net after more good work from Baines.
There were no signs of complacency in the second half, with England continuing its patient assault on the San Marino goal, and it wasn’t long before the Three Lions added to their tally. Rooney got a goal his performance merited, curling a free kick past the slow to react Simoncini from the edge of the box.
Hodgson began making changes after the sixth goal, with Manchester United duo Rooney and Tom Cleverley leaving the field. Far from disrupting the flow of the game, substitutes Sturridge and Leon Osman were eager to make an impression.
The home crowd erupted in the 65th minute as San Marino won a corner – only the team's third from five qualifying games – but it was easily dealt with by Joe Hart, who had been as much a spectator as the mischievous England fans occupying the hills overlooking the stadium until that point.
The elation of the San Marino supporters soon faded as the Three Lions struck for a seventh time – the first time England have managed that tally since their last visit to San Marino almost 20 years ago. The lively Young raced towards the by line and clipped the ball towards the back post where Sturridge was on hand to head home from close range.
Tottenham duo Kyle Walker and Defoe combined for the eighth goal, with the right back accelerating into the box and pulling the ball back for Defoe to stroke past Simoncini. It was the final goal on a thoroughly satisfying and efficient night for England, though the team faces a far sterner test in Podgorica on Tuesday night.
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