England got their 2013 UEFA European Under-21 qualifying Group 8 campaign off to the perfect start thanks to a 6-0 victory against Azerbaijan at Vicarage Road.
England showed no signs of a hangover from their group stage exit in Denmark this summer, taking an early lead through Craig Dawson before extending their advantage courtesy of Henri Lansbury's wonderful volley. Captain Jordan Henderson scored England's third before Lansbury and Dawson grabbed their second goals either side of Martin Waghorn's long-range strike.
Stuart Pearce's side started brightly and came close to taking the lead inside the opening two minutes but Henderson's strike from the edge of the penalty area failed to trouble Osman Umarov in the visitors' goal. The hosts' early dominance paid dividends on five minutes when debutant Dawson met Lansbury's corner to head England in front.
Azerbaijan struggled to come to terms with the strength and power of England's midfield as Lansbury, Henderson and Jack Rodwell dictated possession and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provided a useful outlet on the right. Indeed it was the Arsenal FC winger who set up England's second as his cross was met superbly on the volley by Lansbury, who guided the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
The closest the visitors came in the opening period was Jihan Ozkara's shot from the edge of the penalty area but the half belonged to England with Henderson making it 3-0 just before the break with a wonderful curling effort.
Bernhard Lippert's charges were much improved after the break, Ozkara almost catching England cold only for Jack Butland to save sharply down to his right. The 20-year-old was at it again minutes later, this time flicking on Mirhüseyin Seyidov's free-kick to draw a fine reflex save from the England No1.
England were sparked into life by second-half substitutes Marvin Sordell and Waghorn. Sordell came close when played clean through by Lansbury but the Watford FC forward, playing on his home ground, saw his looping effort drift harmlessly wide. England got their fourth with 17 minutes remaining, Lansbury the first to react after Umarov could only parry Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross.
Waghorn then added a fifth for the hosts with an excellent long-range effort that swerved past Umarov. England finished the night exactly as they started it, Dawson heading in Lansbury's corner to make it a debut to remember for the central defender.