Stuart Pearce's latest batch of England Under-21 hopefuls took their first step towards the next European Championship last night in Watford with a predictable thrashing of Azerbaijan.
Pearce claimed before the game that reaching the 2013 finals in Israel would represent his toughest challenge yet, but this Group Eight opener proved the easiest of starters. Man of the match Henri Lansbury scored twice and there were also two goals for West Bromwich Albion's Craig Dawson on his debut, while new captain Jordan Henderson and substitute Martyn Waghorn also got on the scoresheet.
Dawson's header from a Lansbury corner gave England an early lead and the midfielder, who moved on loan to West Ham on Wednesday, added a spectacular second by hooking home acrobatically Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross.
Henderson scored from 25 yards on the stroke of half-time and a late England flurry in the second half produced a tap-in for Lansbury, a Waghorn long-range effort and a second header from Dawson. "The result was fantastic to kick the campaign off, and something to build on," Pearce said.
England Under-21 (4-4-2): Butland; Flanagan, Caulker, Dawson, Briggs; Henderson, Rodwell, Lansbury, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Shelvey, 78); Wickham (Waghorn, 69), Delfouneso (Sordell, 68).