England toiled for 30 minutes before eventually fulfilling expectations with a comfortable 5-0 victory over San Marino in front of a near sold-out crowd at Wembley.
Against the team ranked the joint worst by the FIFA rankings, England knew anything less than an emphatic win would be harshly judged. And in the end they got what was required with two goals apiece from Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck and a first strike for his country for Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
While England controlled the game from the off, their passing initially lacked the tempo to puncture San Marino’s packed defense.
Arguably the standout moment of the initial stages came as San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini charged from his line and channeled just a little bit of Harald Schumacher as he flew into Theo Walcott’s chest after the winger had got the first touch to the ball.
The challenge would soon force Walcott off with Lennon coming on as his replacement.
The early chances fell the way of captain-for-the-night Wayne Rooney. First he put a header wide from a standing position six yards out, before doing likewise from even closer range as he dove onto the ball from Cleverley’s ball in.
England were getting progressively closer; a fact emphasized as they struck the woodwork twice in quick succession after 33 minutes, first through Michael Carrick and from the rebound by Welbeck.
But the breakthrough finally arrived just a minute later, from the spot. Welbeck raced onto a through ball and got there ahead of Simoncini who couldn’t prevent himself from bringing the striker to the ground with his outstretched hands.
Rooney made no mistake from the spot, drilling the ball into the keeper’s top right corner.
As is so often the case when the underdogs’ resistance was broken, more goals soon followed. England had to wait just two minutes to add a second.
Kyle Walker released Lennon whose low cut back was slightly behind Welbeck, but, as he did against Sweden at Euro 2012, the Manchester United man improvised with a stylish flick that took the ball into the back of the net.
It really should have been three for England nine minutes into the second half, but Gary Cahill completely mishit a volley when clear in front of goal from six yards out.
England continued to be frustrated in their attempts to add to their tally until the 70th minute. Substitute Jonjo Shelvey started the move with an excellent cross-field pass and the ball eventually came to Lennon on the edge of the box who just got a touch to Rooney allowing the forward to curl a low shot into the far corner.
Just two minutes later it was 4-0. Tom Cleverley beat his man down the right of the area and put the ball low into the near post where Welbeck had got ahead of his marker to turn the ball into the net.
The flourish of goals was complete as Leighton Baines did well down the left and some neat interplay in the box from Welbeck and Cleverley presented the ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain who produced a stylish curling effort high into the corner.