It was all so easy for England as they side-stepped a potential eastern European banana-skin. Moldova were swept aside in a performance of confidence and authority as Roy Hodgson stretched his unbeaten run as England manager (excluding penalty shoot-outs against Italy) to eight games.
There were fears about the Chisinau pitch and that the hosts would be stereotypically dogged, but the game was over as a contest just after half an hour as England raced into a three goal lead. The second half was little more than an administrative obligation, but the Three Lions did add a couple more goals to boost the goal difference ahead of more difficult games ahead.
The victory was encouraging, but arguably the bigger positives were the style and the successful blend of old hands and new faces. Frank Lampard got two first half goals, the second featuring one of those late bursts into the box that suggests he isn’t ready for a Zimmer frame just yet whilst Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were often at the heart of England’s swift passing. The manager picked out the young Manchester United and Arsenal players for special praise.
If you ask me if Cleverley played well today I’d say yes, a resounding yes. It’s easy to see why Sir Alex Ferguson picks him so often in the Manchester United team. I’m really pleased with him and really pleased with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first half.
It was a performance so good that even Uncle Roy took an uncharacteristic turn towards the cocky in his post-match comments.
I thought we controlled the game basically throughout and I don’t even think that scoreline actually flatters us. Sometimes five-nil scorelines do flatter you, but I don’t think was the case today.
England’s problem in recent years hasn’t been qualifying for tournaments and that’s something Hodgson will look to improve over the course of the campaign. They were 1/10 to qualify before a ball was kicked and after a performance of that calibre, more optimistic minds will turn to thoughts of winning in Brazil 2014. England are 3/10 to win their group and 18/1 to go on and win their first World Cup since 1966.