Roy Hodgson oversaw England's return to the top of Group H but still left the national stadium frustrated after admitting a comfortable victory had been "overshadowed" by a harsh booking for Danny Welbeck that will rule him out of Tuesday's daunting game in Ukraine.

The Manchester United forward scored twice in this rout of Moldova but only after the Slovakian official, Ivan Kruzliak, flashed a yellow card for playing on and shooting having been flagged for offside just before half-time. The assistant's call itself seemed borderline, though the striker's shot had been dispatched almost immediately after the whistle sounded.

Hodgson was remonstrating with the fourth official even as Welbeck scored England's third goal moments later and the forward took up his complaints with Kruzliak again on the final whistle, claiming he had not heard the whistle. "I don't think there'll be too many people, even in the refereeing fraternity, who will say that was a clear yellow card," said Hodgson. "A 40-yard sprint, a ball that arrives on your foot, a split second between the whistle blowing and the shot... You'll have to try very hard to persuade me that was a booking.

"The booking overshadowed the win, that's for sure. We were already very short of front players anyway and the suspension comes as a second booking when the first he received was when we thought we should have had a penalty in Montenegro [in March]. The referee booked him for diving. It doesn't get much more unfortunate than that. But we're getting used to dealing with misfortune. He's out of the game. We'll live with it, deal with it, but I didn't think it was a correct decision."

Welbeck, whose two goals swelled his tally to eight in 18 caps, was just as infuriated by the decision. "I was obviously very disappointed with the yellow card," he said. "In a stadium of thousands of fans you can't always hear the referee's whistle and I thought I was onside and wanted to try and put it in the back of the net. It was difficult to get my head right after that, knowing I wouldn't be taking part in the next game, but I wanted to play my part for the team and make sure we got the result."

So shaken were England that Hodgson chose to take off the other player one booking away from a suspension, Ashley Cole, at the interval to avoid a repeat.James Milner seems likely to replace Welbeck for the game in Kiev against Ukraine, who are a point behind England in second place following their 9-0 demolition of San Marino in Lviv, with Hodgson's forward options severely depleted. Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll are injured and Daniel Sturridge's thigh injury will be examined by the national team's medical staff on Sundaytomorrow before a decision is made as to whether he is fit to travel.

"It's under a week since he finished against United and five days since the scan on the thigh strain," Hodgson said. "You need seven to eight days with that injury, so it's not impossible. We shouldn't give up hope. But is it more than 50-50? Definitely no. I would even fear it's worse odds than that. But he's coming in on Saturday night and we'll assess him on Sunday. Who knows? He injured himself against Notts County and he still played against United. Maybe he can do the same for us.

"But the good thing was Rickie Lambert's performance. He took his chance and that's all you can do when you put the national team shirt on. I'm sure he'll be expecting to play on Tuesday. I'll have to make a decision to go along with his expectation or surprise him. We're top but the game against Ukraine was always going to be like this: they came away from Wembley with a 1-1 draw, scored a fantastic goal and we knew we'd have to match that result in Ukraine if we were going to compete for the top of the group.

"Montenegro's draw with Poland does us no harm and the fact we played well here and got a good win in a potentially tricky game is pleasing. But the booking does take the gloss off a good team performance. It's made life difficult for us."