England consolidated their position of power in pursuit of a place at next year’s World Cup in Qatar with a hugely impressive victory against Hungary in a hostile and often unsavoury atmosphere in Budapest.
Gareth Southgate’s side made it four wins from four qualifying games to open up a five-point lead over Poland, who England face in Warsaw after Sunday’s meeting with Andorra at Wembley, at the top of Group I.
In a match which contained several flashpoints in the crowd, including loud jeering when England’s players took the knee before kick-off, objects being thrown and racist chanting, they came through a mediocre first half to take total control after the break and run out easy winners.
England captain Harry Kane missed a great chance to give them the lead shortly after the break but it did not prove costly as Raheem Sterling crowned a smooth move involving Declan Rice, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount to slide home his 16th goal in his past 24 international appearance after 55 minutes.
Sterling then turned provider eight minutes later as his deflected cross sat up perfectly for Kane to head home, Harry Maguire adding a third as his header from Luke Shaw’s corner slipped through the grasp of Hungary keeper Peter Gulacsi.
In one of many incidents, Shaw was showered with plastic cups before taking the corner, as were England’s celebrating players after Maguire scored. Sterling suffered a similar fate after putting England ahead when he took off his shirt to display a message in tribute to a close friend who died a few days ago.
England’s night was rounded off three minutes from time when Gulacsi’s second serious error gifted them a fourth as he allowed Rice’s routing shot under his body.
Sterling leads England romp
England’s path to Qatar now looks smooth – and this was a performance that cemented their status as firm favourites to come through their qualifying group with ease.
Southgate’s side kept their nerve and discipline in the unsettling, intimidating surroundings of Budapest, with the behaviour of Hungary’s fans leaving much to be desired, to turn up the heat and punish their opponents ruthlessly once they had gone ahead.
England’s defence was untroubled and the only disappointment for Southgate was that the victory margin could have been even more convincing, with Kane and Sterling missing clear chances to heap even further misery on the fading Hungarians.
Sterling was once again England’s key figure, as he was in the Euros, scoring the goal that broke the deadlock before setting up the second for Kane.
Southgate will have been delighted with the manner in which England carved out their first goal, Rice winning possession before a slick link between Grealish and Mount set up Sterling for a composed finish. It was exactly what he wants from those players.
England now face Andorra at home on Sunday before travelling to Poland for what is likely to be the toughest game on the road to Qatar in Warsaw next Wednesday – but it is already hard to see who can stop Southgate’s side taking their place at next winter’s World Cup.
- 6OrbanBooked at 58mins
- 14BollaBooked at 35minsSubstituted forVargaat 70′minutes
- 15KleinheislerSubstituted forGazdagat 82′minutesBooked at 89mins
- 20SallaiSubstituted forSallóiat 66′minutes
- 4RiceBooked at 54minsSubstituted forHendersonat 88′minutes
- 10SterlingBooked at 56mins
- 11MountSubstituted forLingardat 84′minutes
- 7GrealishSubstituted forSakaat 88′minutes