ROY Hodgson credited “a job well done” as his England team strolled past minnows San Marino in their low-key Euro 2016 qualifier at Wembley.
The Three Lions took a while to click into gear but eventually recorded the comfortable victory expected against the joint-lowest ranked nation in world football.
Phil Jagielka headed the opener after 24 minutes and Wayne Rooney’s penalty doubled the lead before the break.
Danny Welbeck stroked home a third and his replacement Andros Townsend rifled home at the near post before Rooney’s attempted cross was diverted into his own net by Alessandro Della Valle.
“I certainly can’t fault the players for their application throughout the game,” Hodgson told ITV Sport. “I think these games are never easy. I’m very pleased we have got this game behind us, we have won it very comfortably and added five goals to our tally.”
Following the opening 2-0 win in Switzerland last month, maximum points from both Group E games puts England in pole position ahead of Sunday’s trip to the Estonian capital Tallinn.
Hodgson, who admitted beforehand that a good performance was more important than a flurry of goals, acknowledged a marked improvement in the second half during which only England’s profligacy prevented a more reflective scoreline of their dominance.
“I think the way the players approached it was very good and of course in the second half, against a team who are tiring, we created several good chances after the first half when it is difficult to break down a team with 10 fit players sitting behind the ball.”
England thumped 13 goals without reply past San Marino during qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, including a 5-0 home win two years ago.
But the fixture – witnessed by the lowest attendance for a competitive England international at the new Wembley, and regarded as a four-gone conclusion against a nation who have won just once in 124 international games – began slowly.
The defensive-minded visitors kept a conservative England at arm’s length until the 24th minute when the busy San Marino keeper Aldo Simunic tripped over the boot of team-mate Luca Tosi and gave Everton defender Jagielka the simple task of nodding into an empty net from close range.
England, who gave first competitive starts to Arsenal full-backs Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs, were underwhelming for large periods in the first half but established a two-goal cushion as Rooney dispatched with ease from the spot after being struck in the face by the raised boot of Andy Selva.
The captain’s 43rd international goal presented the hosts with a welcome boost before the break, when Hodgson introduced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana in place of ineffective Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first contribution was a dazzling run to the byline and pinpoint cross which was diverted in at the near post by his Arsenal team-mate Welbeck, who netted twice in last month’s victory in Basel.
Rooney, chasing Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time England record of 49 goals, had several opportunities to add to his tally but could not get the better of visiting stopper Simunic.
The Three Lions were controversially denied when Oxlade-Chamberlain’s long-distance shot was flicked into the net by Lallana from an onside position but the Polish officials ruled it out for offside.
But, given the considerable gulf between the sides, it mattered little for England as substitute Townsend widened the margins on 72 minutes.
The Tottenham winger, who missed the World Cup in Brazil through injury, cut inside on his left foot and crashed home an unstoppable effort from 20 yards at the near post.
San Marino respectably sought to limit the damage but offered nothing going forward as keeper Joe Hart watched on with the rest as the Three Lions kept four successive clean sheets for the first time since 2006.
The one-way traffic kept on coming, and so did the goals, as Rooney’s cross was turned past Simunic by his own defender Della Valle, who also netted an own goal when the teams last crossed paths in March 2013.
It proved the final say on another academic, but ultimately meaningless, evening for England against the south European whipping boys – although it was made sweeter by news of fellow group challengers Switzerland’s surprise 1-0 defeat to Slovenia.
My Man of the Match: Jack Wilshere (England)
The Arsenal midfielder was effective both at the tip and base of the diamond – having switched roles throughout – by dictating the tempo of the play with some excellent passing, particularly in the second half. With no challenge and plenty of space afforded by the opposition, he patrolled the central areas at will and kept attacks alive on numerous occasions by winning the ball back quickly.
England (4-3-3): 1 Hart, 2 Chambers, 5 Cahill, 6 Jagielka, 3 Gibbs, 7 Milner, 4 Henderson (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’45), 8 Wilshere, 11 Sterling (Lallana ’45), 9 Welbeck (Townsend ’66), 10 Rooney ©.
Subs not used: 13 Foster (GK), 21 Forster (GK), 12 Clyne, 14 Baines, 15 Delph, 16 Shelvey, 20 Lambert.
Booked: Milner (37)
Goals: Jagielka (24), Rooney 43 (pen), Welbeck (49), Townsend (72), Della Valle (77 og)
San Marino (5-4-1): 1 Simoncini, 2 Palazzi (Buscarini 74), 6 Della Valle, 5 Brolli, 4 Fabio Vitaioli, 3 Battistini ©, 7 Hirsch, 8 Chiaruzzi, 11 Matteo Vitaioli, 9 Tosi (Gasperoni 63), 10 Selva (Rinaldi 87).
Subs not used: 12 Benedettini (GK), 23 Muraccini (GK), 13 Cesarini, 14 Cervellini, 15 Stefanelli, 18 Golinucci, 21 Valentini, 22 Mazzini.
Booked: Selva (42), Rinaldi (90)
Referee: Marcin Borski (Poland)