KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY —- England were fourth at the World Cup in 2018, third at the Nations League this year and are desperate to progress beyond those stepping stones in next year’s Euro, not least because the semis and final will be staged at Wembley.
First essential is to qualify and manager Gareth Southgate’s young team moved closer to the magic number as they dismantled Bulgaria 4-0 at Wembley to hold top spot in Group A. On Tuesday they can push on by defeating Kosovo in Southampton.
Southgate preferred Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier to Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back while Marcus Rashford started on the left wing with Raheem Sterling on the right.
Captain Harry Kane not only led the line but scored three of England’s goals, two from penalties. Sterling scored the other.
Naturalised Brazilian midfielder Wanderson might have marked his international debut at the age of 31 with an early goal but his low drive was saved comfortably by Jordan Pickford.
England retaliated immediately. Kane had a ‘goal’ disallowed for offside but then scored for goal after Sterling picked up a disastrously misjudged short clearance by goalkeeper Plamen Iliev.
Southgate’s men continued to dominate possession without managing another goal before the interval.
After the break Wanderson was again foiled by Pickford but England then broke away to score twice more. Kane converted a penalty after Rashford was brought down by Nikolay Bodurov then crossed from the left so Sterling could chest the ball home for England’s third.
Kane completed his second hat-trick for his country with another penalty in the 72nd minute after being tripped by substitute Dimitrov. England could have finished with five but for a fine save by keeper Iliev from the fast-breaking Rashford in the 87th minute.
England: Pickford – Trippier, Keane, Maguire, Rose – Henderson (Mount 66), Rice, Barkley – Sterling (Sancho 70), Kane (Oxlade-Chamberlain 76), Rashford.
Bulgaria: Iliev – S Popov, Bodurov (K Dimitrov 64), Bozhikov, Nedyalkov – Sarmov – Ivanov (Mladenov 82), I Popov, Malinov, Wanderson – Marcelinho (Despodov 66).
Referee: M Guida (Italy). Attendance: 82,605.