England barely got out of first gear as they comfortably swept aside helpless San Marino 5-0 on a night where Wayne Rooney celebrated receiving the captaincy by notching a brace.
England went into the game as ultra favourites, the minnows losing their last 22 away games and only ever winning 1 game in their history- 1-0 against Lichtenstein.
It was a well known fact that the population of San Marino, a micro-state in Italy, would comfortably fit inside a stadium such as White Hart Lane or Goodison Park.
Immediately the away side were forced back, England dominating possession. Oxlade-Chamberlain tested the keeper early his shot from distance tipped over.
Walcott was soon clattered into by the opposing keeper, a short period of injury time followed. Initially the Arsenal winger looked set to continue, but Aaron Lennon was soon called upon as a replacement.
Tom Cleverley was played through on goal, but the keeper collected, as England looked to make their dominance count.
A free header for Rooney from a Baines corner was screwed wide as San Marino constantly had at least nine men behind the ball, striker Rinaldi completely isolated in the hosts’ half.
Despite the ease in which possession was retained and regained, England were slack, giving the ball away a number of times. Lennon looked busy on his return to the international fold and the irregular full back pairing of Baines and Walker looked impressive but Welbeck and Rooney were not connecting.
San Marino had one professional player amongst their ranks, goalkeeper Simoncini playing at a level in Italy the equivalent of League 2 in England. The tiny isle had participated in 114 games in their history. They had scored 19 and conceded 473. Defeats to Holland and Germany in recent years had ended in double figures- it was surely only a matter of time.
England were, however, genuinely struggling to break their opponents down, Chamberlain having another dig from the edge of the area which Simoncini parried.
There was an air of desperation as the half hour mark approached, still goalless. The fans, turning out in their tens of thousands expecting to see a one-sided goal-fest, were becoming fidgety. Their side had resorted to shooting from distance but each time bodies were thrown in the way. Rooney again headed wide after an excellent Lennon delivery from the right.
Territorially the play took place in and around the edge of the San Marino area, but the home side were getting closer. Carrick shot from 25 yards and hit the bar, while Welbeck inexplicably grazed the post with the rebound from close range.
England FINALLY took the lead on 35- from the penalty spot. Rooney smashed the ball beyond the keeper as he concedes the pen himself. Bringing down Welbeck, Simoncini received a yellow and now it was a case of how many.
Welbeck made it two moments later. Lennon once again causing problems pulled the ball back and Welbeck flicked the ball home from a matter of yards out. The floodgates had opened.
Simoncini prevented the third as Rooney curled one on target from the adge of the area, but a smart save forced yet another corner.
Despite England’s dominance and lead, there was the sense of an underwhelming atmosphere at Wembley, consensus among fans being that England were going to be 5 up at half time. Mexican waves were taking place during the first half, reflecting fans’ general attitude towards the performance.
England started the second half pretty much how they ended the match before the break- completely in control. Yet the tension remained around the home of football, that England were not absolutely demolishing their part-time opponents.
There was a chance for Gary Cahill- returning to the heart of defence at the expense of Joleon Lescott- which was put wide and Carrick again tested the keeper, but initially England were not able to add to their tally.
These waves of pressure from the Lions continued until Rooney added his name to the score sheet for a second time with a fantastic curling shot which was bent beyond the keeper’s stretching arm. Welbeck also completed a brace of his own when Tom Cleverley delivered a grounded ball and the Manchester United forward had the simple task of turning the ball into the corner of the net.
Andy Carroll and Jonjo Shelvey were introduced in the later stages, but it was Oxlade-Chamberlain who rounded off the night’s work with a goal of his own, finally beating Simoncini with a calm finish.
England now move top of the group ahead of the trip to Poland on Tuesday, with undoubtedly the easiest three points they are likely to earn this campaign.