England have qualified for the 2016 UEFA European Championships after defeating minnows San Marino 6-0 at Serravalle’s Stadio Olimpico in Group E.
An own goal from defender Cristian Brolli was stacked up upon by strikes from Theo Walcott (2), Ross Barkley, Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney, who equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time leading goalscoring record of 49 England goals on his 106th international cap.
The most eye catching selections among England’s line-up before the game included a full debut for Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, Jonjo Shelvey’s second international cap after making his debut almost three years ago and a fifth appearance for John Stones, who completed an Everton-based centre-back pairing alongside Phil Jagielka.
After a quiet opening ten minutes on a terribly rugged surface in San Marino; the hosts, or more so the referee, gifted Roy Hodgson’s men the lead when the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty inside 12 minutes.
Despite Stones handling in the area; official Leontios Trattou surprisingly pointed to the spot during an England attack, with captain Rooney stepping up to take the honours.
The Manchester United talisman equalled the legendary Charlton’s tally of 49 international goals once he wrong footed San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini from 12 yards.
Just six minutes later; Rooney could have become England’s outright all-time leading goalscorer by netting his half-century, but his angled effort was well parried by the busy Simoncini.
But on the eve of the half-hour mark, the Three Lions doubled their advantage through the unfortunate fate of San Marino defender Brolli.
United teammate Luke Shaw flashed a wonderful delivery into the box towards Rooney, but centre-half Brolli intercepted the captain’s assault, only to divert the ball past his own ‘keeper with 29 minutes on the clock.
Once Stones headed a soft effort on target from Milner’s corner, shot stopper Simoncini once again did brilliantly to deny Arsenal forward Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting his name of the scoresheet, tipping his fierce shot over the bar shortly before the interval.
After a slow start to the first-half; England burst out of the blocks in the second, with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s thundering right-flank run inside 15 seconds of the restart eventually finding Barkley in the penalty area to nod home goal number three for the 1966 World Cup champions.
However Rooney was not able to surpass Charlton’s all-time leading goalscoring record after Tottenham striker Kane replaced the captain, whilst Manchester City’s summer signing Fabian Delph replaced Liverpool newboy Milner.
Manager Hodgson then made his third and final change of the evening soon after; throwing on Walcott for Arsenal teammate Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored with his very first touch after latching onto Delph’s low cross after 68 minutes.
With England now in cruise control; Spurs star Kane decided to break his goalscoring duck this season by cleverly lobbing the onrushing Simoncini after Shelvey’s delightful through ball on 77 minutes.
And finally; Walcott doubled his goalscoring tally for the evening by racking up England’s sixth goal within 60 seconds of the restart after tucking the ball coolly into the far corner of the San Marino shot stopper’s vulnerable net to complete the rout.
However Pierangelo Manzaroli’s San Marino, who lie bottom of Group E having failed to score this entire qualifying campaign; did manage to temporarily threaten Joe Hart’s clean sheet with their first shot on target in the 84th minute.
Marco Berardi got the best of Stones on the edge of the area before unleashing a solid strike on goal to test the Manchester City shot stopper from long-range, only for the ball to be directed straight at the England number one.
The Three Lions become the first nation to qualify for the next summer’s UEFA European Championships, which will be held in France, although Roy Hodgson’s side will be looking to record their eighth successive qualifying campaign victory on Tuesday when they welcome sterner opponents Switzerland to Wembley Stadium.