England routs San Marino; Switzerland loses again
LONDON (AP) — England inflicted San Marino’s 60th consecutive loss by routing world football’s weakest team 5-0 in the 2016 European Championship qualifier on Thursday while Group E rival Switzerland surprisingly lost again.
Wayne Rooney scored his 42nd international goal from the penalty spot to go within seven of England’s all-time top-scorer, Bobby Charlton, but the captain wasted several chances to close the gap further.
San Marino, which is joint bottom of FIFA’s rankings with Bhutan, prevented England from scoring until the 24th minute through Phil Jagielka’s header in a first-half when the 18th-ranked hosts lacked tempo.
After Rooney’s strike before halftime, Danny Welbeck and Andros Townsend netted after the break, and Alessandro Della Valle scored an own goal.
“We kept plugging away in the first half when it was difficult to break them down,” England coach Roy Hodgson said. “Our tempo was up in the second half, because it was hard for them to keep going in that second half.”
England tops Group E after back-to-back wins thanks to a superior difference to Lithuania, which beat Estonia 1-0 on Saulius Mikoliunas’ late goal.
But Switzerland, which reached the World Cup round of 16 in Brazil, is surprisingly on zero points after following up last month’s loss to England by going down 1-0 at Slovenia. Milivoje Novakovic scored an 80th-minute penalty after Switzerland defender Johan Djourou brought down Kevin Kampl.
With the top two guaranteed a place at the 2016 finals in France it would be unlikely for England to miss out on the expanded 24-team tournament.
At Wembley, there were 55,990 fans — almost twice the population of San Marino — inside the 90,000-capacity stadium.
It proved a frustrating start for England, with Welbeck having a shot deflected wide and Raheem Sterling denied by goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini.
But after Simoncini fell as Sterling swung in a corner, Jagielka headed in his third England goal. Although England goalkeeper Joe Hart didn’t have a save to make in the match, San Marino did manage to launch a counterattack in the 35th minute which resulted in Matteo Vitaioli finding the space to strike wide.
With Simoncini producing a quick reaction save to block Welbeck’s close-range shot, England’s lead was extended only after Rooney was brought down by San Marino captain Andy Selva, and the England skipper scored from the spot.
“Against teams of England’s stature sometimes it’s worse, and we played a great first half,” San Marino coach Pierangelo Manzaroli said through a translator. “We thought it would be a difficult game form the start. We thought England would push hard form the start to try to close the match but we did well, and it was no surprise we could contain as well as we could.”
Poor defending, though, allowed halftime substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to produce a cross that Welbeck turned into the net four minutes after the break.
But Rooney couldn’t find a way past Simoncini again, with a header thwarted, a chip saved, and a weak attempt to round the goalkeeper yielding nothing.
Andros Townsend came off the bench to double his England tally to two goals with a powerful left-footed strike in the 72nd. And Rooney’s cross was inadvertently turned into his own goal by Della Valle.
In their five matches, England has outscored San Marino 31-1.