England’s Euro 2020 qualifying victory over Bulgaria in Sofia was overshadowed by shameful scenes of racism that saw the game stopped twice and officials threaten to abandon the match.
Gareth Southgate‘s side strolled to a 6-0 victory in an atmosphere that was toxic in the first half and eerie in the second, with a large section of the Vasil Levski Stadium already closed after racist incidents here in June.
England debutant Tyrone Mings was an early victim, turning towards the home fans when chants were aimed in his direction and referee Ivan Bebek stopped the game in the 28th minute after Raheem Sterling was a target for further abuse.
After lengthy discussions, and in accordance with Uefa’s protocol for dealing with racism, the crowd were warned of the consequences if there were further problems – and there was a further stoppage just before half-time.
On the pitch, England moved closer to Euro 2020 qualification as they romped to victory with the recalled Marcus Rashford opening the scoring early on with a superb rising drive.
Ross Barkley added a tap-in and a head from Kieran Trippier‘s cross before Sterling got on the scoresheet with another simple finish just before half-time.
And Sterling provided an even more emphatic answer to those who directed the shameful chants at England’s players when he strode through for the fifth goal after 68 minutes.
Captain Harry Kane finished off the rout, making it Bulgaria’s heaviest home defeat, as England recovered from a 2-1 loss to Czech Republic on Friday.
England, who moved closer to a place at Euro 2020, are top with 15 points from six games, three ahead of the Czech Republic and four in front of Kosovo who beat Montenegro 2-0.