World Cup qualifiers: San Marino 0-8 England
The Three Lions showed exactly why they are ranked 203 places above the hosts in the Fifa rankings, enjoying complete domination over the microstate minnows and boosting their goal difference ahead of Tuesday’s crucial clash with the group leaders .
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 half-time 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 his second.
Injuries and withdrawals dictated Hodgson’s selections, with Oxlade-Chamberlain starting in the absence of injured Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott. With Rio Ferdinand in Qatar, Chris Smalling and Joleon Lescott lined up in central defence, 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 their superiority over the hosts immediately, with San Marino retreating deep inside their own half. It took La Serenissima just 8.3 seconds to score the last time England visited the microstate 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, centre-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 hosts 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 their patient assault on the San Marino goal, and it wasn’t long before they 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.
The home crowd erupted in the 65th minute as San Marino won a corner – only their 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 Three Lions struck for a seventh time when the lively Young raced towards the byline 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 to complete the scoring, with the right-back accelerating into the box and pulling the ball back for Defoe to stroke past Simoncini.