England extended their lead at the top of Group H this evening, with a 5-0 win versus San Marino.
Captain for the night, Wayne Rooney netted a 35th minute penalty with Danny Welbeck adding a second three minutes later.
Rooney then bagged his second with 69 minutes played before Welbeck’s second after 71 minutes, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rounded off the scoring with his 77th minute effort.
England moved three points clear at the top of their group ahead of their trip to Poland, who defeated South Africa 1-0 in an international friendly in Warsaw.
The Three Lions dominated their opponents from the off but they were dealt an early blow when goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini challenged for the ball and took Theo Walcott out at the same time with the Arsenal winger having to be replaced by Aaron Lennon.
Rooney had a couple of good early chances before Oxlade-Chamberlain forced a good save from Simoncini.
The Manchester United forward then headed narrowly wide from a Tom Cleverley cross before Michael Carrick saw his well-struck shot come back off the crossbar, with Welbeck only able to hit the rebound against an upright.
But Rooney made no mistake from the spot after Welbeck was upended by Simoncini in the box.
Welbeck then smashed home Lennon’s cross to put his side two goals up just minutes later.
Simoncini expertly kept out a Rooney effort just before half time while Carrick had a shot deflected off target as England came out firing just after the break.
Gary Cahill should have scored from a Leighton Baines corner but he got his connection all wrong before he headed wide, and Baines could only watch in disbelief as his 25-yard free-kick curled the wrong side of a post.
Rooney smashed home his second from the edge of the area with Welbeck netting at the near post from a Cleverley cross minutes later.
Oxlade-Chamberlain got in on the act 14 minutes from time when he made no mistake with a composed finish.
Rooney’s double places him in fifth place in the list of all-time England top scorers, behind Bobby Charlton (49), Gary Linekar (48), Jimmy Greaves (44) and Michael Owen (40).
“Obviously it’s a great honour for me,” Rooney told ITV. “There’s some great players there and to be in the England top five goalscorers is something I’m extremely proud of.
“Hopefully there’s many more to come, I’m only 26 still. There’s a long way to go so hopefully I’ll score a lot more.
Theo Walcott will spend the night in hospital after a first-half injury resulted in his removal from the match. The injury came after a brutal collision on a challenge on the San Marino goal just five minutes into the action. Keeper Aldo Simoncini didn’t back down and dropped the English midfielder to the pitch.
Hopefully it’ll only be a minor complication. Hodgson would like to have him available as he chooses his squad for Tuesday’s match against Poland.
Regardless, today we’ve witnessed another big step taken towards Rio 2014. Obviously we all expected a victory this evening, but with a few more positive results; the Three Lions should easily guarantee qualification.
In the meantime, it’s great to see England’s younger players given a chance to make an impression.