x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

World Cup qualifying: England 5 San Marino 0

Stand-in captain Wayne Rooney inspired England to a comfortable victory over football's joint-lowest ranked nation.

England captain Wayne Rooney celebrates with his teammates after scoring against San Marino
England captain Wayne Rooney celebrates with his teammates after scoring against San Marino

Wayne Rooney proved himself not just a jack of all trades but master of a few as well as he guided England to an expected World Cup victory over San Marino at Wembley.

Rooney scored a brace to move onto 31 goals for his country - one more than Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney.

The stand-in captain described his pride in his achievement after the game, telling ITV: "There are some great players there and to be in the England top five is something to be proud of.

"I am only 26 so hopefully I will score a lot more.

"We created some good chances and maybe there was a bit of poor finishing but it's not that easy when they put 10 or 11 men behind the ball.

"It's difficult to break them down and we had to create chances and we managed to do that, so obviously we'll take the positives and it wasn't a bad result."

Manchester United team-mate Danny Welbeck also scored twice before Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wrapped up a comfortable performance at Wembley.

The result took England three points clear at the top of Group H and in good heart for Tuesday's crucial trip to Poland, even though Theo Walcott must be rated as extremely doubtful after being hospitalised following a crunching challenge from the San Marino goalkeeper within the first few minutes.

Had Aldo Simoncini's airborne challenge on Walcott been executed by anyone other than a goalkeeper, it is difficult to imagine he would have stayed on the pitch - reckless and dangerous, it sent Walcott cartwheeling.

On the touchline, Roy Hodgson was furious. He was still seething when it was confirmed Walcott's evening was over and Aaron Lennon was sent on in his place.

Rooney's far-post header from Tom Cleverley's cross edged narrowly wide, before Michael Carrick smashed a shot against the bar which Welbeck should have turned home but somehow shovelled against a post.

England's opener eventually came in somewhat surprising circumstances as Welbeck charged into the box and was upended by Simoncini.

Rooney had no hesitation in accepting even more responsibility and duly drove home the spot-kick.

Within three minutes, England had another.

When Welbeck acrobatically turned home the winner against Sweden during Euro 2012, some questioned whether he meant it.

The impudent manner in which the 21-year-old turned home Lennon's cross, from a very similar position, left no room for debate.

Rooney was denied by a brilliant Simoncini save before the break, then Carrick's shot was deflected away from danger immediately after it.

From the corner, Gary Cahill really should have scored but when Leighton Baines, who had kept his place at the expense of Ashley Cole, picked him out at the far post, the Chelsea man shinned it rather than catch the ball on the volley as he intended.
Cahill then sent a header wide before Baines was inches away from curling home a 25-yard free-kick.

Hodgson decided to inject a bit more life into his midfield by introducing Jonjo Shelvey for his debut.

The Liverpool man had only been called up on Monday, and was actually suspended from England Under-21's play-off win over Serbia earlier today.

FIFA's eligibility rules meant he could play for the seniors though and the 20-year-old's introduction was immediately followed by another Rooney-Welbeck one-two.

Lennon was about to get a free-kick when Rooney fired home from the edge of the area, a landmark goal which means he has only four more men to overtake and become England's greatest marksman.

Yet again, Welbeck followed up almost instantly. Once more at the near post, this time Cleverley providing the cross which he prodded home from close range.

Hodgson had seen enough to get Rooney off in readiness for Tuesday's more testing assignment with Poland in Warsaw.

It meant he was only watching when Oxlade-Chamberlain made his own little bit of history 14 minutes from time, tucking himself behind Tommy Lawton, Michael Owen, and England's youngest goalscorer of all, Rooney.