Frustrating at times, efficient come the end, England did what was expected of them and secured a comfortable three points in front of a ‘sell out’ (minus 4346, but don’t let that get in the way of what The FA have been telling everyone this past week) crowd.
A goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, his first for his country, two from man of the match Danny Welbeck and two from Wayne Rooney, who became England’s fifth highest scorer of all time, spared the blushes of several players who missed numerous guilt-edge chances. 33 shots with 20 on target to San Marino’s 1 and 0 says it all.
Solid performances from Leighton Baines, Tom Cleverly and a first cap for Jonjo Shelvey in a typically comfortable display meant the more experienced players of Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were barely missed. In all, a good night for the Three Lions.
The only dampner on the night was an injury to Theo Walcott. Chasing for the ball with San Marino keeper Simoncini, Walcott was charged down in a similar manner to the Harold Schumacher incident of 1982, if you were to believe Adrian Chiles. I wouldn’t if I were you. I wouldn’t believe anything he says, but on this occasion he couldn’t be more wrong. It was merely a collusion, with Simoncini slightly late but with no intention to injure Walcott. He was possibly lucky to get away without giving away a penalty, but all the same, there was no malice involved.
Away from the action though, a group of former pros acted without any sense of professionalism. Before the game even the San Marino manager had admitted that there was no chance of them getting a victory, but that doesn’t entitle the ITV punditry and commentary team to treat an international team as some kind of joke.
The pre-match talk was embarrassing, analysing the jobs the semi pro San Marino players do. Yes that’s right, real people doing real jobs but being criticised for it. Commentator Clive Tyldesley counted up the seconds after kick off past the point when San Marinian Davide Gualtieri had scored an 8 second goal against England in 1993 and compared the game to ‘playing FIFA with your dad’. Gareth Southagte asked at half time ‘what is the point of San Marino?’. A disgrace throughout, especially when you consider San Marino held England for over half an hour and put in quite an impressive defensive display considering their world ranking of 207.
Thankfully, the English players didn’t replicate such arrogant behaviour, and baring the occasional Danny Welbeck flick, treated the opposition with respect. 86% possession and Joe Hart barely touching the ball just shows how seriously England were taking the game right until the final whistle, despite the poor finishing at times.
I wasn’t the only one who felt embarrassed to hear it, with the San Marino FA tweeting ITV ‘shame on you!’. It would be great to hear some form of apology from those involved, but that wont be forthcoming. I’m sure the San Marino FA wont mind, the performance of their players and the actions of the English broadcaster have helped to form a place inside the heart for the La Serenissima of many English fans.