England produced the perfect remedy to the disappointing 2-1 defeat against the Czech Republic by battering a woeful Bulgaria 6-0 in their European qualifier. The Three Lions were good value for their huge win in Sofia after the dire performance in Prague, however the game was shrouded by incidents of racism that saw the game halted twice in the first half.
England Batter Bulgaria in European Qualifier
First Half Incidents
The game was already being played in a partially closed stadium due to incidents of racism in some of Bulgaria’s previous qualifiers. However, that didn’t deter some from acting up as play was halted twice in the first half. The game was in serious doubt of being abandoned, with UEFA’s three-step protocol applied. The protocol worked, with pictures and videos of a group of Bulgaria fans dressed all in black leaving the stadium.
Numerous announcements were made over the PA system and the referee took the players off at one point during the game. However, it was guessed by BBC Sport that England took the decision to continue the game.
Even when the game continued, the commentary team for the game on ITV’s live broadcast said that more abuse had been picked up by the pitchside microphones.
The ITV broadcast also said that they had asked UEFA for a statement around the abuse. The body said they will not comment on the issues tonight but will release a statement in due course.
Aside from the abhorrent incidents, England showed just how good they can be. However, they were helped enormously by how terrible Bulgaria were on the night, summed up by a late effort on goal that actually ended up going behind Ivelin Popov, the player that took the shot.
Gareth Southgate’s side went ahead through Marcus Rashford’s stunner. The Manchester United forward burst down the left to the byline, cut back inside onto his right and fired an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net.
A quickfire double from Ross Barkley put England out of sight and before the break, Raheem Sterling, one of the main targets of the racist abuse from the Bulgaria fans, notched the first of his brace.
Sterling added his second with 21 minutes to go when he finished excellently into the bottom corner, and captain Harry Kane, not to be overshadowed by his teammates, added the gloss late on with a near-post finished after dispossessing the Bulgaria defence.
England could have secured qualification from Group A tonight but had to rely on Kosovo not getting a positive result at home to Montenegro. While The Three Lions’ place at the 2020 European Championships is all but assured with tonight’s success, Kosovo’s 2-0 win against Montenegro means that they have to wait for it to be mathematically confirmed.
The final round of qualifiers takes place next month as England host Montenegro on Thursday, November 14 and then travel to Kosovo three days later.