SOFIA: England bounced back from their first tournament qualifying defeat for 10 years with a 6-0 thrashing of toothless Bulgaria yesterday in a Euro 2020 Group A clash marred by racist incidents in the first half that stopped the game.
The match at the Vasil Levski stadium was temporarily halted by the referee in the first half under a three-step Uefa protocol to tackle racist abuse from the crowd.
Racist chanting was heard from the stands and reported by England players to manager Gareth Southgate, with the referee informed and a public announcement made on two occasions.
On the pitch, England midfielder Ross Barkley netted twice after Marcus Rashford had opened the scoring in the seventh minute as Southgate’s side highlighted the gap in quality with the hosts before Raheem Sterling struck just before halftime.
England’s comfortable victory was rounded off by Sterling’s second goal midway through the second half and a cool finish from captain Harry Kane five minutes from the end to inflict Bulgaria’s heaviest ever home defeat.
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.
Ukraine advanced to the Euro 2020 finals after an impressive first half helped them to a 2-1 home win over Portugal, whose talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 700th career goal in a Group B qualifier.
The result left Ukraine top on 19 points from seven games, eight more than second-placed European champions Portugal who have a game in hand.
Third-paced Serbia are on 10 points from six games after an Aleksandar Mitrovic brace gave them a 2-1 win at Lithuania.
France must wait to claim a place at Euro 2020 after the world champions were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Turkey.
Turkey’s Kaan Ayhan equalised eight minutes from time after France substitute Olivier Giroud opened the scoring as the visitors stayed top of Group H with 19 points from eight games, ahead of Les Bleus by virtue of a 2-0 win in Konya last June.
Iceland are third on 15 points after goals by Arnor Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson earned a 2-0 win over Andorra, with Albania fourth on 12 points with a 4-0 away win against Moldova.