CHISINAU (Reuters) - England set off on the long road to Brazil at sprinting pace with an emphatic 5-0 defeat of Moldova in their opening World Cup qualifier on Friday.
Frank Lampard’s penalty after three minutes silenced the crowd and England had their first three Group H points in the bag before halftime with Lampard heading a second and Jermain Defoe’s shot underlining the gulf in class between the sides.
England’s tempo dropped after the break as Moldova enjoyed a little more of the ball but the hosts conceded two more goals as James Milner grabbed his first for his country and Leighton Baines’ free kick found the net with the help of a deflection.
Roy Hodgson’s side will expect a tougher task against Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine at Wembley on Tuesday but the manner of their opening victory, albeit against lightweight opposition, will provide grounds for optimism for the qualifying campaign.
“The key was the start,” Lampard, whose opener was England’s 100th penalty in international football, told ITV Sport.
“It can be tough coming to places like this. But we showed our intentions tonight.”
England enjoyed the perfect start when Moldova’s Simion Bulgaru inadvertently blocked Tom Cleverley’s shot with his flailing arm and Lampard stepped up to bury his spot kick low into the corner.
The midfielder showed his scoring instincts again after 29 minutes, collecting his 25th England goal when he guided a firm header across and beyond Moldova keeper Stanislav Namasco from Glen Johnson’s inviting cross.
Three minutes later Defoe, earning his 50th cap in a rare start, lashed a shot past Namasco as England threatened to run riot in the Moldovan capital.
The hosts enjoyed a few attacking flurries in the second half as Hodgson substituted impressive Arsenal teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and skipper Steven Gerrard but England finished with a flourish.
Milner swept a shot past Namasco to make it 4-0 and Baines, deputizing at left back for the injured Ashley Cole, saw his free kick loop off the wall and into the net.
Writing by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris