LONDON: England went top of their World Cup group by dismissing Moldova 4-0 at Wembley but the match was poor preparation for Tuesday’s difficult visit to Ukraine.
Moldova had nothing to offer except honest hard work for an England side weakened in attack by the injury absences of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge. Steven Gerrard, Rickie Lambert and Danny Welbeck (two) scored the goals.
But Roy Hodgson was not a happy man.
England’s manager was angry at the yellow card which has denied him the services of Welbeck in Ukraine.
The Manchester United forward collected a second yellow card of the qualifiers for an over-hasty booking for a snap shot over the bar when he had just been flagged offside just before half-time.
Hodgson said: “Coming at a time when we were already short of front players anyway we have now lost one to the only booking of the game. The first one he got was when we thought we should have had a penalty in Montenegro and he was booked for diving so we’re getting used to dealing with misfortune.
“The players dealt with the misfortunes we suffered before the game in terms of injuries and we hope they can do the same in Ukraine.
“I don’t think too many people, even in most of the refereeing fraternity, will say that was a clear yellow card. There was a split second between the whistle blowing and his shot.
“You’ll have to work very hard to persuade me that in the rules of the game that was a yellow card.”
Thus England’s attack will rely ever more on Lambert. The Southampton 31-year-old is first England player to have scored in his first two internationals since winger Peter Taylor 37 years ago.
Happily for Hodgson veteran midfielders Lampard and Gerrard – scorer of the 12th-minute opening goal – survived the game safely as did Jack Wilshere though Hodgson made certain by substituting the Arsenal man early in the second half.
Moldova coach Ion Caras blamed injuries, suspensions and individual mistakes for his team’s failure to provide greater resistance. The match did nothing to change his opinion that Ukraine and England would take the top two positions in the group.
In other qualifiers Germany beat Austria 3-0 and Italy edged Bulgaria 1-0.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in Portugal’s 4-2 dismissal of Northern Ireland in Belfast despite the first-half expulsion of Helder Postiga for a head butt. Ronaldo’s first international treble took him to 43 goals for his country, two more than the legendary Eusebio.
England: Hart – Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, A Cole (Baines 46) – Lampard, Gerrard – Walcott, Wilshere (Barkley 57), Welbeck – Lambert (Milner 70).
Moldova: Namasco – Bordian, Epureanu, Armas, Golovatenco – Georghiev (Pascenco 84), Bugaru (Suvorov 57) – Antoniuc, Ionita (Onica 18), Dedov – Sidorenco.
Referee: Kruzliak (Svk)