Five-star England cruise to victory in World Cup opener
10:12pm Friday 7th September 2012 in National Sport
ENGLAND launched their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 5-0 victory in Moldova to record their biggest away win since 1993.
Frank Lampard scored twice to provide the perfect answer to questions about his age, with Jermain Defoe, James Milner and a deflected Leighton Baines free-kick underlining England's overwhelming superiority.
It has to be pointed out England will face much stiffer tests than this, while the exits of John Terry and Steven Gerrard proved they did not escape unscathed.
There were only six survivors in Hodgson's starting line-up from the team that lost their Euro 2012 quarter-final to Italy on penalties in Kiev.
Lampard might have come in quite handy on that night. After all, when he drilled home from the spot after only four minutes, the Chelsea man was converting his eighth penalty for England, a record.
Hodgson could take some satisfaction from the knowledge one of his surprise selections created the opener. Preferred to Manchester United team-mate Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley was eager to make a positive impression on his first competitive start.
He did exactly that by meeting James Milner's far post cross perfectly, only for Semion Bulgaru to block it with his hand. Referee Paul van Boekel gave England the benefit of the doubt and Lampard gave them the early advantage they craved.
Moldova keeper Stanislav Namasco was unconvincing as he dealt with efforts from Defoe, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Glen Johnson before he was beaten once more by Lampard midway through the half. Again the delivery came from the right - this time from Johnson - and Lampard was perfectly placed to convert.
Within three minutes, England had another. When Oxlade-Chamberlain rolled a pass through a static defence, Defoe found the net with a first-time shot.
A fourth goal eventually arrived courtesy of James Milner after both Cleverley and substitute Danny Welbeck had declined opportunities to shoot themselves. And 10 minutes from time, Leighton Baines completed the victory, with, remarkably, England's first goal direct from a free-kick since David Beckham scored against Ecuador in 2006.