England beats Moldova, now ahead of Montenegro in group
LONDON (AP) -- Two goals from Danny Welbeck helped England go top of World Cup qualifying Group H with a 4-0 victory over Moldova on Friday, with Montenegro toppled after drawing in Poland.
Welbeck struck either side of halftime at Wembley Stadium after captain Steven Gerrard scored his first England goal in three years and Rickie Lambert marked his second cap with a second goal.
But it was a bittersweet night for Welbeck, who was booked for shooting after the referee blew his whistle and he will miss the next qualifier in Kiev on Tuesday.
"It was overshadowed (by the booking) coming at the time we were short of front players anyway,'' England coach Roy Hodgson said.
Ukraine, third in Group H, warmed up for hosting Hodgson's side by routing San Marino 9-0 with eight different scorers.
Montenegro's 1-1 draw against Poland saw the team fall behind England due to its inferior goal difference.
England hosted a hapless Moldova side, which posed absolutely no danger to the hosts.
The tougher assignment is the trip to Kiev where England's striking problems might be exposed.
Wayne Rooney has already been ruled out with a head injury, and Daniel Sturridge is a doubt with a thigh injury.
Such is the shortage of options up front that Lambert was rewarded for his scoring debut last month in a friendly against Scotland with his first start.
Inside four minutes, the 31-year-old Southampton striker was presented with two chances - heading over and then powerfully volleying wide.
Instead, it was a mainstay of the England team who found the net, with Gerrard marking his 104th appearance with his 20th international goal.
England ripped the Moldovans apart down the left flank, with Ashley Cole rolling the ball to Welbeck and then passing to Lampard.
The Chelsea midfielder squared to Gerrard, who curled the ball into the net from 25 yards (meters) in the 12th minute.
Despite the early lead and chances to go further in front, the hosts were far from vibrant despite having a territorial advantage.
There was little doubt about the victory once Lambert scored.
Goalkeeper Stanislav Namasco flapped at Walcott's shot and the attempted save only diverted the ball to Lambert who was on hand at the far back post to head into an open net in the 26th.
The only sour note on the night for England was when Welbeck struck at goal a split-second after the referee blew for offside, earning the Manchester United striker the yellow card.
But Welbeck showed England what they'll miss in Ukraine when he brought down Lambert's deep ball, and took it past Namasco before steering the ball into the net.
Five minutes into the second half, Welbeck was on target again.
Lambert surged down the left and picked out the Manchester United striker, who dinked the ball over the advancing Namasco.
It was `mission accomplished' for England, which maintained its dominance to the end without finding the net again.
The glut of goals came with Ukraine's demolition of San Marino, which is bottom and without a point.
With a ruthless display, the goals came from Marko Devic, Yevhen Seleznyov, Edmar, Yevhen Khacheridi (two), Yevgen Konoplianka, Roman Bezus, Artem Fedetskiy and Yaroslav Rakitskiy.
The tightest game in the group on Friday came at Warsaw's National Stadium.
Montenegro made the perfect start in its bid to hold on to top spot when Dejan Damjanovic drilled the ball into the net from the edge of the area after 12 minutes.
But Robert Lewandowski responded four minutes later, netting the equalizer from inside the area for Poland.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.