Danny Welbeck scored twice as England cruised to a 4-0 win over Moldova at Wembley in their FIFA World Cup qualifier on Friday.
Roy Hodgson’s side took the lead in the 12th minute through a 20-yard effort from captain Steven Gerrard and they never looked back.
In his first England start, Rickie Lambert headed in a second before Welbeck struck either side of half-time to delight the 61,607-strong crowd.
The result was significant for England, who moved to the top of Group H on goal difference.
England now have 15 points from seven matches, while Montenegro – who drew 1-1 with Poland on Friday – also have the same tally, but from one game extra.
Ukraine are snapping at both of their heels on 14 points from seven games after thrashing San Marino 9-0, and with just one side automatically qualifying for next year’s tournament in Brazil, the stakes will be high in the remainder of the group stages.
Chelsea pair Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole returned to Hodgson’s starting line-up for England, while Lambert was involved from the start after scoring the winner on debut against Scotland last month.
Wayne Rooney was the headline exclusion for the hosts, with the Manchester United forward still suffering from a head injury, while Leighton Baines and Tom Cleverley dropped to the bench.
Moldova, who made four changes themselves, were quickly on the back foot as winger Theo Walcott won England a corner inside the first 90 seconds.
Lambert headed the chance over, while he thrashed an effort wide shortly after, as England started brightly, and they soon had the lead.
The goal was created down the left, as Cole and Welbeck combined nicely, before Lampard laid off for Gerrard.
And the Liverpool star beat Moldova goalkeeper Stanislav Namasco with a fizzing strike from distance that went in off the inside of the post.
Walcott had a goal ruled out for offside in the aftermath, while Jack Wilshere and Lampard tested Namasco in a two-minute spell that ended with a second goal for the hosts.
Moldova repeatedly failed to clear the ball and England’s constant attacks eventually bore fruit, as Namasco could only parry a Walcott effort to an unguarded Lambert, who headed home from two yards.
Walcott and Welbeck had further opportunities, while a neat Moldova move saw Sergiu Gheorghiev shoot well wide under pressure from Phil Jagielka.
England sealed their victory on the stroke of half-time, though, as Welbeck, who was booked for ignoring an offside flag – which will rule him out of Tuesday’s qualifier in Ukraine – responded within a minute with a goal.
Lambert supplied Welbeck with an inch-perfect cross and the Manchester United forward took a touch beyond the hapless Namasco and tapped in to give his country a 3-0 lead at the break.
It took just five minutes in the second half for England to extend their lead, as Lambert and Welbeck combined to superb effect again.
Lambert drifted out to the left to win the ball and split the defence with a neat ball, and Welbeck did the rest, dinking over the onrushing Namasco.
The match petered out after the fourth goal, as Hodgson introduced Baines, debutant Ross Barkley and James Milner off the bench, but there was still time for Welbeck to head over.
Barkley showed excellent skill to avoid several challenges before shooting just wide, and Welbeck, Lampard, Kyle Walker and Milner also went close, as England eventually settled for a four-goal victory.
England now travel to Kiev on Tuesday for a crucial fixture against Ukraine.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!