England v Moldova
6 Sep 2013 - 8:00 PM
England cruised to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Moldova at Wembley and moved level top in World Cup qualifying Group H.
Roy Hodgson’s men took charge from the 12th minute when Steven Gerrard gave them the lead, and from then on the result was never in doubt.
Rickie Lambert also bagged one, while Danny Welbeck helped himself to a brace.
Ukraine’s 9-0 drubbing of San Marino and Montenegro’s 1-1 draw with Poland means England share top spot with Montenegro with a game in hand - while Ukraine sit just one point off the Three Lions.
But while this win over Moldova was just what England ordered ahead of their tough trip to Kiev on Tuesday, a first-half booking for Danny Welbeck rules him out of that massive encounter.
Hodgson’s attacking options had already been reduced earlier in the week following injuries to Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, so Lambert was handed his first start just three weeks after his winner against Scotland.
The Southampton striker almost grabbed an opener inside four minutes after Ashley Cole’s deflected cross from the left fell kindly for him 12 yards out. His cleanly struck first-time effort looked good, but it arrowed wide of Stanislav Namasco’s post and Lambert was left cursing his fortune.
But England did not have to wait long to chalk up their first, and it was the captain who fired them in front. He had the graft of Danny Welbeck on the left to thank; the United forward hassling for possession before squaring for Frank Lampard.
Lampard, who moved just one cap away from his century, rolled the ball into the path of Gerrard and he met it with a trademark drive, similar to his goal in Munich 12 years earlier. Namasco had no chance with this one as the ball skidded across the floor and sneaked inside the upright.
The goal was Gerrard’s first for England since his brace against Hungary just over three years ago.
It was pretty much one-way traffic as the Three Lions looked to add to their tally quickly. Jack Wilshere, who is yet to score in his eight appearances, saw a chance to run at the Moldovan defence and took it.
The Arsenal youngster gliding into the box unchallenged but drilling his shot at Namesco, who parried away. Lampard also had a sighting six yards out, but his header again tested the keeper.
But the Modolvan No1 could do nothing about Lambert’s goal on 27 minutes. Another England attack was troubling the visitors, who struggled to clear their lines. A pass from out wide found Theo Walcott and he fired a vicious angled drive goalwards.
Namasco was again behind it, pushing away from the target, but Lambert was prowling at the back post and nodded, gratefully, into the open goal.
Welbeck put the icing on England’s dominant first half display making it 3-0 seconds before the break, but not before he was booked for kicking the ball away after an offside call, which rules him out of Tuesday’s match against Ukraine.
For the goal, though, Lambert turned provider this time clipping in a well-placed cross from the right towards the Manchester United man marauding down the middle. Welbeck beat Namasco to the ball, his touch taking it past the keeper, and he rolled into the empty net.
The partnership came together again five minutes after the break as England added a fourth. Lambert again crafting the opening for Welbeck, slipping the 22-year-old into the box and he coolly chipped over the advancing Namasco. It was his eighth goal for England, but his celebration was somewhat muted, knowing that he will not be on the plane to Ukraine.
The disappointment did not stop Welbeck searching for his hat-trick goal, though, and he almost headed home from Gerrard free-kick, lifting his header just over the bar.
By now, Hodgson had introduced Ross Barkley to the action in place of Wilshere as the young Everton midfielder earned his first cap. He was keen to get on the ball as much as possible and looked assured with some early touches and almost laid a chance on for Welbeck, but his first touch took the pass away from goal.
Barkley was clearly enjoying his first taste of a Wembley international and could have marked it with a goal. His 75th-minute run deserved better as he cut inside of his marker into space on the edge of the area, but pulled his shot wide of the goal.
Namesco was soon called into action again when both Welbeck and Lampard tried shots from outside the box. He managed to keep them out, however, thanks mostly to a huge slice of good fortune.
England’s players were queuing up in the closing stages looking to add a fifth. Kyle Walker found himself in a good position inside the away penalty box. His first time strike cut through the air but carried on over the gaol and into the crowd behind.
A 4-0 win is a job well done for Hodgson’s men, though the Welbeck suspension will pose another problem for the manager.