Saido Berahino's well-taken goal ensured a deserved three points in the Young Lions' first Euro 2015 qualifier but a series of missed chances in the second half took the shine off
Saido Berahino notched the opener 14 minutes into a confident first half, burying it from a difficult angle, and, though the hosts dropped off significantly after half-time, they recorded three points in their first Euro 2015 qualifier.
Southgate's regime began with three debuts as Southampton duo Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse joined West Brom's Berahino in the starting XI. The striker was positioned ahead of an attacking midfield comprising Wilfried Zaha, Tom Carroll and Nathan Redmond.
The hosts assumed control within 10 minutes, Berahino shown the first chance when he somewhat heavily controlled a low pass from Zaha and shot low on goal. Goalkeeper Alexei Koshelev unconvincingly deflected it away.
They came closer a minute later when an England corner was deflected out to the left. Redmond swung in a cross and captain Andre Wisdom's header drew a more confident save this time from Koshelev.
The Young Lions had their lead in the 14th minute, however. Carroll received the ball just outside the D and, evading his marker, slipped a ball through into the area, where Berahino beat the offside trap and fired into the near-top corner from a tricky angle.
Shaw nearly provided a second moments later when his 25-yard half-volley needed a solid parry from Koshelev.
The hosts' quick interplay continued to threaten, though for a change it was Carroll on the receiving end of a crafty pass when, free in the box, he forced the keeper to tip over. From the resulting corner, Wisdom came close again as Koshelev needed a second attempt to claim the ball.
The fans roared when Redmond hit the net, having swapped flanks to now cut in from the right, though the Norwich City man had only found the side.
Just before the break there were chances at both ends. Berahino headed wide from Ward-Prowse's cross before Moldova, in a rare attack provided by a free kick, saw Catalin Carp's header placed low past the far post.
Unchanged, England started the second half where they left off. Nathaniel Chalobah's ball forward from deep looked unintentional but pierced the Moldova defence to allow Redmond a shot, the winger firing close to Koshelev, who saved.
Another slightly unexpected chance came when a long, speculative cross floated over from deep on the right towards the far post, where Zaha popped up to prod from close range. The Moldovan No.1 reacted well once again, however, with an instinctive block.
England struggled to turn the screw and, even when handed a clear-as-day chance, failed to capitalise. Zaha it was who was found only three yards out with empty net in his sights but the Manchester United starlet contrived to head over.
Unbelievably, it got worse for the Young Lions. Substitute Sammy Ameobi offered rare second-half inspiration with a dinked pass into the box that allowed Berahino to bypass the keeper. The West Brom youngster, however, hooked the ball high and over from infinitesimal range, though under some pressure.
Berahino then flashed a pass across goal that barely evaded Will Hughes, who missed another from inside the box during stoppage time after a fine England move. Southgate, though, would have to settle for just the one.