• Moldova 0-5 England
• Lampard 4pen 29, Defoe 32, Milner 74, Baines 83
All talk of miracles can wait. England needed only a saunter to ease into their World Cup qualification campaign, Roy Hodgson's team barely breaking into a sweat against hapless opponents to set a tone they must now seek to maintain. Something miraculous may well be required in Rio, as Steven Gerrard has suggested, but a stroll was more than good enough in Moldova.
This was an eighth game without defeat, penalty shootouts aside, over Hodgson's brief tenure but, by the end, this whole occasion had been stripped of any competitive nature. The visitors even finished with 10 men, John Terry having reluctantly departed early for treatment after hobbling through the latter stages on a wounded ankle, but still registered their biggest away win since dismissing San Marino 7-1 in 1993. There was satisfaction to be gleaned from a thrashing, with this a collective sharpening of tools before Ukraine visit Wembley on Tuesday.
That will prove a trickier test, the management having pinpointed Oleh Blokhin's side as "one of the favourites in the group", though they will confront an England team buoyed by this battering. After all the trepidation born of Holland's toils home and away against these opponents in qualification for Euro 2012, and the pockmarked nature of the pitch, this was exposed as a mismatch from the opening exchanges. So ramshackle was the locals' attempt at defence that, with energetic wingers pouring into the space behind panicked full-backs and centre-halves dizzied by England's movement, it was cruel to behold at times. The contest did not extend beyond the half-hour mark.
The most obvious beneficiary of the visitors' superiority was Frank Lampard. By the end of the night he was perched 13th in the list of England's most prolific goalscorers, having leapfrogged Sir Geoff Hurst to score his 24th and 25th international goals. No other player has managed more than the Chelsea midfielder's 11 in World Cup qualification ties, with this a display to roll back the years. The 34-year-old's untracked dart forward between centre-halves, and smartly guided header from Glen Johnson's centre from the edge of the six-yard box, felt trademark and doubled the England lead 29 minutes in, with Stanislav Namasco utterly helpless in his goalmouth. Lampard and Gerrard had not started alongside each other in a competitive fixture since the nightmare that was Bloemfontein in 2010 but these were not opponents to test whether the combination still feels cumbersome.
The Chelsea player had also provided England's first, a penalty within the opening four minutes after Tom Cleverley's shot had been blocked by Simion Bulgaru with a hand. The midfielder's last double for his country had been against Croatia at Wembley in 2009, when he had pilfered his first from the spot and then nodded in a Johnson cross for his second, an uncanny parallel, even if this was a free-for-all. Namasco retired at the interval looking haggard, a broken man shellshocked by the whole desperate experience.
By then he had shipped a third at his near post to Jermain Defoe, who marked his 50th cap, while the chaotic Moldovan rearguard were still coming to terms with a two-goal deficit. More damage would be sustained near the end when England roused themselves to offer a sting in the tail, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Cleverley breaking downfield, each passing up his own opportunity to add a fourth before James Milner crunched in his first goal at this level on his 32nd cap. Leighton Baines's deflected free-kick added yet more late gloss to the drubbing, the Everton player celebrating his first competitive start with England's first goal direct from a free-kick since David Beckham scored against Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup.
Those were all landmark moments to cherish. Just as appealing was the manner in which Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Milner cut swathes down either flank, albeit through flustered full-backs who had looked poorly positioned and horribly jittery from the start. Cleverley, too, was impressive in his combination play as a buzzing No10 on his competitive debut, his interplay with Lampard and Gerrard real reason for optimism for all, apart from Michael Carrick, presumably. The elder United midfielder started on the bench here where he had hoped to be on the pitch. His appearance after the break for the rested Gerrard at least allowed him to make his own classy impression.
Cleverley, on this evidence, will demand inclusion against Ukraine. "Tom stepped into that position and looks at home there," Hodgson said. "It's easy to see why Sir Alex [Ferguson] picks him so often for United, and it's very evident what a good decision it was to use him with Team GB at the Olympics. That gave me a chance to 'discover' him. It's nice to see these young players taking their chances and showing they merit a place in the squad. But the old guard are making certain they don't get too much of a look in."
Some context is required. Moldova were weak at the back and blunt up front, and have failed to score in six matches stretching back to last October, with only hints at English complacency offering them glimpses of summoning a riposte. Igor Armas flicked a header wide and Johnson almost sent Igor Picusceac through on goal. But, even so, Joe Hart's dramatic dive as Artur Patras's swerving shot from 40 yards flew over the bar felt like showmanship from a goalkeeper attempting to remind himself that this was an international occasion. For long periods it was actually a non-contest. Regardless, Hodgson's honeymoon has been maintained.