England met expectations with a comfortable 5-0 victory over minnows San Marino to make it twos wins out of two in what looks set to be a serene qualifying campaign for Euro 2016. A meeting at Wembley with the nation ranked 208th and joint last in the FIFA rankings was never going to be anything other than a case of how many goals would be racked up. As it was Roy Hodgson’s side matched their haul from the home fixture against the same opponents in qualifying for the last World Cup.
As then it took a while for England to get off the mark. Phil Jagielka’s header into an empty net broke the deadlock midway through the second half, before Wayne Rooney, as he did in the fixture two years ago, fired home from the penalty spot. The second half could easily have seen the scoreline reach double figures, and Rooney will perhaps be disappointed that he didn’t move up the list of England’s all-time goalscorers. While England’s captain didn’t add to his tally, Danny Welbeck got his third goal in qualifying following his double in the win in Switzerland last month. Substitute Andros Townsend then made it 4-0 before the scoring was completed when Alessandro Della Valle deflected in Rooney’s cross.
After exiting the 2014 World Cup following the group stage, a 2-0 victory in Switzerland last month had given England the perfect start in their attempts to book a place in France in two years’ time. Already it should be a mere formality to make it into the top two of Group E, with the comfort of knowing that even a third-place finish will earn a second chance via a playoff. Certainly San Marino were never going to provide a meaningful obstacle.
Still, in front of a half-full Wembley, it was a labored start from the hosts. San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini had a lively opening, but did manage to keep out a free-kick from Rooney before seeing Welbeck’s shot helpfully deflected wide. Simoncini was at fault, though, to allow England to go in front in the 24th minute. From a corner by James Milner, the goalkeeper came racing from his goal but tripped over one of his own defenders to leave Jagielka to head into an empty net and get his third goal for his country.
There was almost a repeat soon after when Simoncini missed his punch from a free-kick, but Gary Cahill was sufficiently distracted by a fist coming toward his face to cause the Chelsea defender to miss the ball as well. But England did have a second goal to effectively secure victory before the interval. Striker Andy Salva, the only San Marino player regularly ahead of the ball, came back into his own box and raised his boot ludicrously high toward Rooney’s head to leave the referee pointing to the spot. The England forward, suspended throughout October for Manchester United, slammed the ball into the top corner from the spot to move onto 42 goals for his country, two behind Jimmy Graves in third place on the all-time list and just seven behind record-setter Bobby Charlton.
He may be disappointed that he didn’t get closer, having been unable to make the most of a headed chance while also failing to go around the goalkeeper when through behind the defense. Still, it took England just four minutes into the second half to extend their advantage. Halftime substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain charged down a poor clearance and put in a low near-post cross that allowed Arsenal striker Welbeck to get ahead of Simoncini and continue his fine scoring form.
Another substitute made his mark to add some more sheen to the scoreline with 18 minutes remaining as a San Marino team made up largely of part-time professionals began to tire. Townsend has done little for club or country since playing a major role in securing England’s qualification for Brazil with headline-grabbing performances in their last two qualifiers. But the inconsistent Tottenham winger came good again for his country with a familiar fierce strike with his left foot after cutting in from the right. Five minutes later Rooney found the ball at his feet in the box and tried to find a teammate in the middle, but the intervention of Della Valle wrong-footed his goalkeeper to complete a routine win. A trip to Estonia on Sunday will pose a sterner test.