In England's second meeting with Moldova in World Cup Qualifying Group 2 they went one better than they did when the two sides met over a year ago. Victory took England one point clear of Italy, who only managed a 0-0 draw in Georgia, both countries having played the same number of games. England now go to Rome in October knowing a draw will be enough to see them qualify for France '98. Losing to Italy would mean England go through to a play-off stage.
Seaman made his first appearance as England captain in this game. He became the first 'keeper since Peter Shilton to captain England, that was against Italy in a third place play-off game in Italia '90. Seaman is only the sixth goalkeeper to captain England. The others are: Willian Moon (Old Westminsters) and George Raikes (Oxford University) during the last century, Frank Swift (Manchester City) in the late 40's and Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton in recent times.
Once play had settled in this important game, England looked menacing. They created many attacks and looked like they would take the lead in the 16th minute when Gascoigne, playing an instrumental role in midfield, swept passed several Moldovan defenders but the ball went wide of the goal. Although Gascoigne was the star of the match other England players shone. Beckham had an attempt which was cleared away by Moldova, England newcomer, Scholes, headed over the bar, and Les Ferdinand forced the Moldovan goalkeep to save early in the game.
England's assaults on the Moldovan goal became fruitful in the 29th minute when, after a number of previous attempts, Beckham took a corner kick which was punched away by Roumanenco. The ball then fell back to Beckham who crossed to his Manchester United team-mate Paul Scholes, who headed the ball home. This took England into the break a goal to the good.
Not a minute had gone on the clock in the second period when the home side increased their lead. Gascoigne was heavily involved in this attack after taking possession 40 yards out. He pushed towards goal while Wright positioned himself in the penalty area. Gascoigne played a superb ball for Wright who scored, putting the ball in at the near post.
Twenty minutes later, Hoddle sensing victory, and the need to stop his side losing possession to Moldova,
sent on Ripley for Beckham. Beckham had played well but Hoddle brought him off to avoid the youngster receiving a yellow card. Another booking would rule him our of the Italy fixture.
Ripley's comeback was short lived after he pulled a hamstring in the 75th minute (Butt replaced him). The Blackburn Rovers hero re-introduced to the England line-up looked to be making a promising contribution on
the wing, supplying a cross for Gascoigne who powered the ball against the upright. Batty picked up the rebound but his shot was not good enough unfortunately.
After an uneasy spell early in the second half England ended the match on a high. Gascoigne and Wright worked well together and produced the third goal for England after playing the ball to each other. Gascoigne deservedly put the ball passed Roumanenco. The second half ended as it started, with England scoring. Wright again came up with the good.
Now on to Rome!!
After the game England coach, Hoddle, had this to say:
"Psychologically there is an edge that has swung around to us now. We don't need to get there (to Rome) to win any more. I've always thought we could go there and win, but it takes the edge away because a draw will do us in the end."
"The pressure is just a little bit more on them now than on us. The Georgia result was a nice surprise. I didn't expect it. I thought Italy would go there and win. All in all it shows what a good result ours was when we went out there and won 2-0."
Seaman, G Neville, Southgate, Campbell, Beckham (Ripley 67 mins (Butt 75 mins)),
Batty, Gascoigne, P Neville, Scholes, Ferdinand (Collymore 82 mins), Wright.
Subs Not Used: Pallister, Walker, Le Saux, Lee.
Roumanenco, Stroenco, Fistican, Tistimitstanu, Spinu, Shishkin (Popovici 60 mins), Curteam, Culibaba (Suharev 52 mins), Rebetadj, Miterev, Rogaciov (Cibotari 74 mins).
Subs Not Used: Dinov, Epureariu, Tolocorucov.
England Scorers: Scholes (28 mins), Wright (40 & 90 mins), Gascoigne (89 mins)
England cautions: Campbell
Moldova cautions: S Curtean, Spinu
Referee: K-E Nilsson (Sweden)