Hart a virtual spectator in England rout
- 06 September 2013 21:52
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc
Joe Hart didn't have a save to make but kept his first international clean sheet since March to help England to a 4-0 victory over Moldova at Wembley on Friday night.
James Milner was introduced as a substitute with 20 minutes to go of a straightforward, effective showing from England in front of a two-thirds full Wembley Stadium.
A brace from Danny Welbeck and strikes from Steven Gerrard and Rickie Lambert helped England to the handsome margin of victory most expected in the build-up to the game.
In truth, it was a shut-out for Hart which said more about the shallow pool of creative talents the opposition have to choose from but the comprehensive manner of the victory enabled the Three Lions to strengthen their prospects of a place at next summer’s World Cup.
Especially given Montenegro's two dropped points away at Poland in the night's other game.
Roy Hodgson’s men went into this World Cup qualifier knowing that fate was still very much in their own hands despite earlier draws against Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine.
The Three Lions hit Moldova for five when they last met at Arena Zimbru in Chișinău 364 days previously, when Milner struck home the fourth goal of that rout – his first-ever goal for his country.
Despite this, there was no room for Milner in Hodgson’s XI but the England boss was true to his recent proclamations that he would be “vociferous” in support of Hart in light of recent media criticism by retaining the City keeper in the line-up for his 34th cap.
Elsewhere, Lambert’s goalscoring debut against Scotland last month convinced Hodgson to give the Southampton striker his first competitive international start, with Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck on either side.
A three of Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard and Gerrard played across the middle, while Phil Jagielka partnered Gary Cahill at the centre of defence after it was revealed last week that there would once again be no place for Joleon Lescott in the squad, despite three starts and two clean sheets so far in the Premier League.
Hart has kept two international clean sheets in the year that has passed since the 5-0 win over Moldova and he may have expected a quiet night between the posts against a team which has managed just four goals in their seven qualifiers to date.
That proved to be the case once again, as the visitors rarely ventured into Hart’s half, meaning it was the more attack-minded players in the England XI who had opportunities to shine.
Lambert came close to doubling his international tally after three minutes with a vicious volley from inside the penalty area which flashed wide but England didn’t have to wait too long to break Moldova’s resistance.
Ashley Cole combined with Lampard, who squared for Gerrard on the edge of the box to drill home his 20th goal for his country with a trademark strike which nestled into the bottom corner of the net.
There was a degree of fortune about the second which arrived after 26 minutes courtesy of Lambert, who seized upon a weak parry from Moldova keeper Stanislav Namasco to head home his second England goal in as many games.
Welbeck extended his team’s advantage to three on the very stroke of half-time after he raced on to an excellent lofted through ball from Lambert to round the keeper and slot into the empty net.
England have beaten this opposition 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0 in their three previous meetings.
To keep this sequence of ever-increasing scorelines going, Hodgson needed the same again from his team after the break and they got off to the perfect start on that front courtesy of the same combination that provided the third.
Five minutes into the second period, Lambert found Welbeck once again with an incisive through ball which the United man took in his stride and dinked over the onrushing keeper.
Milner had to be patient for his 40th international cap but he was introduced as England’s third and final substitute with 20 minutes to go and the game won – perhaps Hodgson had half an eye on Tuesday’s game against Ukraine.
With Welbeck suspended for that trip after a booking, it’s thought that the England supremo may opt to field Miler on the left wing as he did in this brief run-out.
There was time left for Lampard to go close to making it 5-0 with a long-range volley which the Moldova keeper just about scrambled away and for Milner to fire over from close range when he really ought to have scored but England would have to be satisfied with their four-goal winning margin.
A much tougher task awaits England on Tuesday when they travel to Kiev looking to build up a lead in Group H for the first time.
Win there and plans can be pencilled in for a summer sojourn to South America.