Bulgaria 0-6 England: 3 Things we learned from the match | Euro 2020 Qualifiers
- England may have demolished Bulgaria on the pitch but the persistent abuse from the crowd tarnished what could have been a superb game.
Monday evening's game between Bulgaria and England was always going to be a tumultuous affair. Precautions were put into place weeks before and yet things still almost went horribly wrong.
Racism had been anticipated from certain sectors of the Bulgarian crowd, and while many fans had hoped it was just media speculation, everyone's worse fears were soon realised as racist chants were heard early on, directed primarily at Tyrone Mings and Raheem Sterling.
There was general racist hollering aimed at any England players of colour but it was the most discernible when directed at Mings and Sterling.
The first stoppage of the match came in the 26th minute when the England players informed Southgate of tremendous booing from the Bulgarians whenever Sterling was in possession of the ball. The England manager relayed this information to the referee who halted the game to speak with the fourth official.
As per the guidelines put into place by UEFA, known as the three-step protocol, the first step is for the referee to signal for an announcement to be made over the tannoy to request that the fans cease all racist and offensive behaviour immediately. This is what happened in that moment after Southgate informed the referee, but judging by the reaction from the Bulgarian crowd, it was mostly disregarded and the chanting continued, but to a somewhat lesser extent.
Just before half-time, the second step of the protocol was initiated, which was followed by a five-minute stoppage that involved the players wandering aimlessly round the pitch, waiting for play to continue as the referee tried to placate a rightly indignant Southgate.
By this point, England were 4-0 up; it would have been in Bulgaria's interest for the game to be abandoned, which is what the third step would have caused.
Perhaps a rethink is needed by UEFA to change the abandonment consequence to one of forfeit, so there's an actual punishment to the side guilty of the abhorrent behaviour.
While the racist antics from the crowd mostly overshadowed the brilliant performance by England, we should still retain our focus on the positives that can be taken from the match, and there were plenty where Southgate's lads were concerned.
Six goals on the night is certainly nothing to scoff at, even if it is against Bulgaria. Marcus Rashford opened the scoring, followed by Ross Barkley (twice), Raheem Sterling (twice) and Harry Kane in the dying embers of the match. Overall, an excellent performance.
#3 Tyrone Mings and Harry Maguire form a formidable defensive partnership
Tyrone Mings was selected to replace Michael Keane in this game and he showed everybody what England had been missing at the back - robust defending. Undoubtedly, Keane is a good player on his day, but the Everton man had made several mistakes in the past few games which essentially forced Gareth Southgate's hand in finding a replacement, and Mings was the perfect fit.
The six-foot-six Aston Villa centre-back proved to be an integral part of England's impregnable defence this evening, keeping a cleansheet on his debut against a side that did have a few solid chances on goal, but were kept out by an all-around solid defensive unit.
Harry Maguire also had a strong 90 minutes alongside the debutant, forging a partnership that many fans at the ground were clearly impressed with, based on their applause and chanting whenever the pair passed the ball to one another at the back.
Ben Chilwell and Kieran Trippier were also very good in this game and did their jobs expertly, covering each flank well when defending and bursting forward with dynamism and speed when on the attack. There can be no complaints as far as the defence is concerned.