Stuart Pearce's latest batch of England Under-21 hopefuls took their first step towards the next European Championship with a predictable 6-0 thrashing of Azerbaijan.

Pearce claimed on Wednesday that reaching the 2013 finals in Israel would represent his toughest challenge yet but Thursday's Group Eight opener at Vicarage Road proved the easiest of starters.

Man of the match Henri Lansbury scored twice and there was a debut brace for Craig Dawson, while new captain Jordan Henderson and substitute Martyn Waghorn also netted.

It looked ominous for the visitors when an unchallenged Dawson headed in Lansbury's corner five minutes in.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced some exciting wing play, setting up England's second after 21 minutes when his cross was hooked home acrobatically by the retreating Lansbury.

And it was 3-0 on the stroke of half-time when a nice exchange between Henderson and Matthew Briggs finished with the former curling a fierce strike home from 25 yards.

England eventually woke up and Briggs stung the palms of Osman Umarov, while Oxlade-Chamberlain sent Henderson's near-post cross wide.

Pearce withdrew Wickham and Delfouneso for Martyn Waghorn and local hero Marvin Sordell midway through the half. The latter should have scored a fourth when he cushioned a volley just wide.

But it did not matter as, minutes later, Umarov parried Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross straight to Lansbury, who hooked home his second, before Waghorn exposed Umarov again with 11 minutes left.

Oxlade-Chamberlain had just been withdrawn for Jonjo Shelvey when Waghorn tried his luck from 25 yards, his powerful strike sailing over the head of the goalkeeper. Shelvey picked up a needless yellow and Eshgin Guliyev left the field on a stretcher before Dawson glanced home his second from Lansbury's corner a minute from time.

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Topics:
Jonjo Shelvey
Marvin Sordell
Football
Matthew Briggs
Championship
Jordan Henderson
Alex
Craig Dawson
Stuart Pearce
Martyn Waghorn
Henri Lansbury