England beat Moldova in World Cup Europe Qualifier

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Frank Lampard ensured England made a swift start on the road to Brazil as the Chelsea captain bagged a brace in his side’s 5-0 demolition of Moldova in Friday’s opening World Cup Europe qualifier.

After England’s tame Euro 2012 quarter-final exit against Italy, it was essential for Roy Hodgson‘s side to deliver a convincing display in Chisinau and Lampard’s 24th and 25th international goals were the catalyst for a ruthless rout of the Group H minnows.

Lampard gave England the perfect start when he converted a penalty and he was on the scoresheet again before half-time, while Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe also netted in the first period and James Milner and Leighton Baines added late goals to silence Moldovans.

Ukraine should provide a sterner test when they visit Wembley on Tuesday, but this was a promising start to England’s bid to reach the 2014 World Cup.

With Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll sidelined by injuries, Defoe, for so long a bit-part player for England, was able to underline his credentials with his second goal in his last two internationals after Hodgson opted to select him ahead of Danny Welbeck.

And a mature display from young Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley provided further encouragement for Hodgson as he looks to rebuild after Euro 2012.

Cleverley, making only his second England appearance, was a clever conduit between Defoe and the midfielders and his performance conjured memories of England’s visit to Moldova in 1996 when David Beckham impressed on his debut.

England’s players were briefly cast into darkness when the stadium lights went out during the pre-match warm-up, but it took just three minutes for Hodgson‘s men to light up the Zimbru Stadium once the game got underway.

There had been much pre-match talk about how the dubious quality of the pitch might hinder England, but Milner didn’t seem especially troubled as he swept down the right flank before whipping a low cross towards Cleverley.

Cleverley fired a shot goalwards and the ball smashed into the out-stretched arm of Simion Bulgaru.

Dutch referee Pol van Boekel immediately awarded a penalty even though the defender would have had a hard time getting out of the way and Lampard stepped up to drive his spot-kick past Stanislav Namasco.

There was little resistance from the Moldovans and England swept forward again, with Defoe‘s fierce strike drawing a good stop from Namasco.

Moldova’s players would have received a £2,500 a man bonus if they could beat England, a not insignificant amount in the poorest country in Europe.

But Moldova are 141st in FIFA’s world rankings for a reason and England ended the contest with two goals in quick succesion before the interval.

In the 29th minute, Lampard, untracked by Moldova’s statuesque defenders, made a typically lung-bursting run to meet Glen Johnson’s chipped pass with a bullet header past Namasco.

Then three minutes later, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slipped a pass through to Defoe and the striker hit a first-time effort that should have been stopped by Namasco but eluded the keeper at his near-post.

With the points long since secured, Hodgson took off his captain Steven Gerrard at half-time and sent on Michael Carrick.

England were content to go through the motions for long periods of the second half, but they pieced together another incisive move to add a fourth goal in the 74th minute.

Cleverley and substitutes Welbeck and Theo Walcott combined to set up Milner and he fired home from the edge of the area to claim his first ever England goal.

There was still time for Everton left-back Baines to get his first goal for England as well when his 83rd minute free-kick looped in off Alexandru Gatcan.

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