Rooney fluffs his lines as San Marino keeper prevents a rout
Aldo Simoncini stars at Wembley as minnows keep it respectable against England
England 5 San Marino 0. So a good result for San Marino, then. The microstate ranked bottom of Fifa's 208 nations avoided a cricket score in their Euro 16 qualifier and leaked only five against England. In comparison to the 13-0 scoreline inflicted upon them by Germany in a Euro 2008 qualifier, 5-0 has an air of respectability about it.
But it was still a defeat, their 60th straight loss (the only triumph in San Marino's history was a friendly win against Liechtenstein in 2004) and once again raises the validity of allowing them – along with Andorra and Gibraltar – to compete in the top tier of international football.
It does nobody any good, except one imagines the self-important suits within Uefa, who pat each other on the back and marvel at the inclusivity of their organisation.
The only thing to marvel at on Thursday night was the fact that 55,990 fans (almost double the size of San Marino's population) parted with their cash to watch this one-sided mismatch.
Poor Joe Hart in the England goal could be counted among their number. His contribution to his side's victory involved little more than fetching the ball from behind the goal after a long-range effort Matteo Vitaioli sailed wide. That was the extent of the visitors' aggression in attack; otherwise the plucky but painfully limited San Marino side spent the evening chasing England shadows. One of the more surreal stats to emerge from the first-half was that San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini made more passes than any of his team-mates.
In fact Simoncini, a computer science student, was the standout performer on the pitch, the veteran keeper – who has now conceded 176 international goals in 40 games – made a series of sharp saves, none more so than his spectacular leap to flick a Danny Welbeck header over the bar.
Alas, it was his mistake that led to England's first goal on 24 minutes, when he tripped over a teammate's outstretched leg as he came for a corner, allowing Phil Jagielka a free header. Wayne Rooney doubled the hosts' advantage on the stroke of half-time from the penalty spot, the England captain scoring his 42nd goal for his country to close within two of Jimmy Greaves on the all-time goalscoring list.
Rooney should have had a hat-trick in the second-half but his poor touch let him down on a couple of occasions, a profligacy that – as we saw in the World Cup – hurts England in the big matches.
There were however second-half goals from Welbeck, Andros Townsend and an own goal from Alessandro della Valle to keep the fans amused on what overall was a muted atmosphere at Wembley.
England now top their qualifying group with two wins from two and travel to Estonia for Sunday's third match in good heart. "We worked hard to break down a stubborn team," declared manager Roy Hodgson. "What also impressed me was the players' desire to work hard to get the ball back. If they can develop those skills then it would stand them in good stead going forward."