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Stoke City (H) Fri 26 Dec 2014, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

Baines Nets First England Goal

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

Leighton Baines marked his first competitive international start with his first England goal as the Three Lions kicked off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 5-0 rout of Moldova.

Meanwhile, Croatia had Nikica Jelavic to thank after the striker stepped off the bench to fire them to a 1-0 home win over Macedonia.

With an ankle injury forcing Ashley Cole out of the England squad, Baines was included in Roy Hodgson's first competitive line-up since the Three Lions' Euro 2012 exit to Italy and turned in an impressive performance as he and his teammates made light work of their limited hosts.

Indeed, Frank Lampard had England fans celebrating inside four minutes, confidently slotting home from the penalty spot after a Moldovan defender had been punished for a handball.

The Chelsea midfielder then doubled his tally on the half-hour mark with a neat header from close range before Jermain Defoe almost immediately added a third, squeezing the ball in at keeper Stanislav Namasco's near post.

England continued to probe and got further reward for their dominance on 74 minutes when James Milner made it four, before Baines got in on the act with the aid of a wicked deflection.

Presented with a free-kick 25-yards from goal, the left-back was unquestionably aiming for one corner but saw his effort spin wildly off the wall to completely wrong-foot Namasco and sail high into the other.

Elsewhere, Croatian poacher Jelavic was named on the bench for Igor Stimac's first competitive game since replacing former Everton defender Slaven Bilic - but the striker staked his claim for a regular starting role with the only goal of a tight game in Zagreb.

The 27-year-old was thrown into the action with 63 minutes gone and took just six minutes to get his head on Mario Mandzukic's right-wing cross and secure all three points.

Marouane Fellaini played a full 90 minutes as Belgium defeated Wales 2-0 in Cardiff courtesy of goals from Vincent Kompany and Tottenham new boy Jan Vertonghen. Recently signed Everton forward Kevin Mirallas also started for Marc Wilmots' side but was replaced by West Brom's Romelu Lukaku at the break.

John Heitinga helped the Netherlands keep a clean sheet as they began the process of putting their Euro 2012 nightmare behind them with a 2-0 victory over Turkey, while Jan Mucha kept goal in Slovakia's 1-1 draw in Lithuania.

Earlier on Friday, Seamus Coleman was an unused substitute as the Republic of Ireland hit two late goals to win 2-1 away in Kazakhstan, but there was international misery for Apostolos Vellios with Greece Under-21s falling to a bruising 4-0 defeat in Bosnia.

Meanwhile, Saturday afternoon saw Steven Naismith get a full 90 minutes under his belt as Scotland began their qualifying campaign with a goalless draw against Serbia.

The former Rangers forward had one of two good chances to win it for the hosts but saw his shot from 12 yards sail wide of the upright.

>>> Defeats for Howard and Oviedo

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