Moldova 0 England 5: Lessons as Hodgson’s side make perfect start
Moldova 0 England 5: Lessons as Roy Hodgson's side ease to an emphatic win in their opening 2014 World Cup qualifier
Gerrard and Lampard re-unite
Can Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard play together in heart of England’s midfield? It is a question which has caused great debate since the pair established themselves as England regulars – albeit helped by Paul Scholes’ premature retirement. In a move which could be described as almost nostalgic, Roy Hodgson opted to deploy the pair together in central midfield against minnows Moldova. Prior to the World Cup qualifier, England had won 63 per cent of games with both Gerrard and Lampard playing opposed to 56 per cent when at least one was absent. However the duo impressed in the opening 45 minutes, with Gerrard’s bursting run leading to Tom Cleverley’s shot being handled in the area – Lampard dispatched his 12th successful penalty in an England shirt to give the visitors a fourth minute lead. The Chelsea midfielder, who has struggled domestically, added a second with a delicate header into the corner of the net. While controlling the midfield area against the Moldovans will hardly answer the long-running debate, the pair did show a maturity and understanding which can be a positive as Hodgson looks to find a balance between youth and experience.
Baines can finally usurp Cole
Ashley Cole has been the long-term occupier of England’s left-back position since making his debut against Albania in 2001. The 31-year-old, who has been linked with a move to La Liga champions Real Madrid in recent weeks, has, like many of the Three Lions’ seasoned veterans, experienced a dip in form, leaving the door ajar for Leighton Baines. The Everton full-back has become accustomed to being Cole’s stand-by over the past three seasons, but now a chance to impress Hodgson and acquire a regular starting spot has arrived. The Chelsea defender was denied the chance to earn his 100th cap by injury, allowing Baines to step into the fold. Similarly to Cole, the former Wigan Athletic defender is impressive going forward – his set-piece ability is an asset which Cole does not possess – while defensively sound. And Baines marked his tenth England appearance with his first international goal after the defender’s free-kick took a wicked deflection to deceive Moldova’s goalkeeper Stanislav Namaşco and complete a 5-0 victory for the visitors.
Class of 1997 v Class of 2012
England had faced Moldova in a previous World Cup qualifying campaign, with Glenn Hoddle securing a 3-0 victory in Kishinev in 1997. Fast forward 15 years, and the Three Lions eased to a 5-0 win on Friday night. However, Hodgson’s current squad fails to match up to Hoddle’s charges two decades ago, and indeed suggests that the national team has not progressed. The Class of 1997 boasted arguably England’s best-ever striker Alan Shearer, who scored the final goal against Moldova, Arsenal stalwart David Seamen, and a fresh-faced David Beckham. In addition, the presence of Stuart Pearce, Paul Ince and Gary Pallister compensated for the relative inexperience of Gary Neville and Nick Barmby – the former would become one of the Three Lions’ greatest right-backs. Hoddle’s England side went on to play attractive and attacking football en route to France 1998 and in the tournament itself before suffering penalty heartache against Argentina in the second round. Despite Hodgson’s men beating Moldova by a greater margin and skipper Gerrard declaring England can win the 2014 World Cup, it would appear the Three Lions are no closer to ending the trophy drought with key players from England’s so-called “Golden Generation, such as Lampard and John Terry, very much in decline, while promising starlets like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cleverley too young and inexperienced to cope with the nation’s expectations.