England 4-0 Bulgaria

Leading Marksman: Harry Kane completes his hat-trick and with it overtakes Sir Geoff Hurst on the England scoring charts [photo: UEFA.com]

Harry’s Hat-Trick Keeps England on Top

England continued their emphatic start to Euro 2020 qualifying with a 4-0 Wembley win over Bulgaria. Harry Kane helped himself to a second England hat-trick, with Raheem Sterling also on target.

Kieran Trippier, Declan Rice and Marcus Rashford all earned starts in England’s first fixture of the 2019/20 season. Jesse Lingard and Aaron Wan-Bissaka had both pulled out of the squad and returned to Manchester United with minor fitness issues.

Away side Bulgaria arrived never having beaten England in ten attempts. They were captained by veteran and talisman Ivelin Popov, formerly of Spartak Moscow.

The first goal of the game, and markedly the best, was sadly but correctly chalked off for offside, but showed beautiful fluid football as a stunning flighted Ross Barkley long pass allowed Raheem Sterling to run free and square for Harry Kane. It didn’t count, but did show what England can do under this explosive, youthful 4-3-3 system.

It took England only a matter of minutes though to dust themselves down and score once more, this time legally.

Gifted Goal: Kane points to the provider Sterling for the first goal. In truth, it was a goal masterminded by Bulgaria’s goalkeeper Plamen Iliev [photo: UEFA.com]

Bulgaria’s early goal-kicks had all been taken short and passed out nervously. It seemed like all of Wembley could tell it was going to cost the visitors eventually. Goalkeeper Plamen Iliev’s pass to left centre-back Vasil Bozhikov was poorly executed. Raheem Sterling nipped in to claim his free gift, beating Bozhikov to the byline and pulling the ball back for Kane. The England captain tucked home into an empty net for 1-0. Simple for England; embarrassing from Bulgaria.

Slow and thoughtful passing closed out a largely uneventful half for England, who needed to keep their concentration levels when the visitors nicked possession and leapt on the attack. 1-0 to the Three Lions was the scoreline at the break.

Focus and concentration wasn’t so good in the second period’s early exchanges though, allowing Bulgaria a real opening. A smart move culminated in a good save from Jordan Pickford to deny Brazilian-born midfielder and debutant Wanderson from close range.

That very Bulgarian foray forward led to Marcus Rashford countering at sheer pace though, and when he reached the box and checked back, he was clearly felled – penalty England. Harry Kane banged the ball into the top right corner to double his personal tally and England’s lead on the night.

Willing Runner: Ross Barkley capitalised on his good form to put in an energetic and skilful display in attacking midfield [photo: UEFA.com]

Not five minutes on and Gareth Southgate’s hungry, exuberant side were scoring again. Marcus Rashford led another swift attack, driving directly at Bulgaria’s defence before slipping in Harry Kane to his left. Kane crossed for Raheem Sterling, who converted the kind of chance that has made him so prolific for his club, Manchester City.

In the end, the ball cannoned in off his knee from no more than a yard out. It was 3-0. Sterling had assisted Kane for England’s first and now Kane had returned the favour.

On came all three permitted substitutes for England, and all were well received in the lazy afternoon sun at Wembley. Jadon Sancho was joined by the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the real story belonged to Mason Mount, making his debut and playing alongside his childhood best mate, Declan Rice.

England earned a second penalty when Harry Kane was upended just as he was due to pull the trigger from open play. He stepped up once more – inhaling a deep breath – and hammered the ball high the other side. Same result.  

Triple Threat: It was the front three of Kane, Sterling and Rashford that saw off Spain last October. Against Bulgaria on Saturday, it was much the same story [photo: UEFA.com]

The latest hat-trick was secured for a man with an amazing goalscoring record for his country. He’s the first player since Gary Lineker to notch 25 goals in his first 40 internationals for England.

The Three Lions switched off from the resulting kick-off though, and a poor pass from Jordan Pickford left Harry Maguire no option but to concede a freekick in a dangerous area. Bulgaria’s captain Ivelin Popov clipped the ball towards the top corner, but Pickford made amends for his earlier error, tipping the ball over the bar with real agility.

England so nearly added a delicious fifth when Marcus Rashford played a rapid one-two in the box with Barkley. Rashford went through one-on-one, but his dinked finish was smothered well by keeper Iliev. Rashford wasn’t to find the net, but he had been lively throughout and played well. For the most part, so had England.

The top two in the group meet at St Mary’s in Southampton on Tuesday, after Kosovo sprung a surprise earlier in the day with victory over the Czech Republic. For England though, it was a job well done against Bulgaria, with a comprehensive final score of 4-0.

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