Rampant England eased past Hungary in Budapest with a second-half four-goal barrage that propels Gareth Southgate’s men toward qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after a tie marred by abusive fan behaviour.
As England supporters were not able to make the journey, over 60,000 home fans strained to create a hostile atmosphere in the Puskas Arena for the visitors.
Before play began the England players took the knee to highlight racial injustice, and were met by cacophonous booing despite calls from Hungary coach Marco Rossi before the game for fans to behave.
Raheem Sterling was targeted with booing throughout the clash as well as reported monkey chants, but responded with a goal. And when plastic beer glasses were launched by fans toward the England star, teammate Declan Rice replied by drinking from one of the cups sent his way.
A flare was thrown onto the pitch near where Maguire celebrated his strike, with Jude Bellingham also reportedly targeted with monkey chants.
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The incidents were called “completely unacceptable” afterwards by Southgate. “The players should not have to be subjected to any form of racism … the individuals responsible need to be dealt with,” he said.
“Some people are stuck in their ways of thinking and their prejudices, they are going to be the dinosaurs in the end as the world is modernising,” he added.
“I didn’t hear that (racist chants). I will talk to the boys and see if they heard any of it,” England captain Harry Kane told ITV.
“We will have to report it to UEFA as the rules permit. If that is the case, hopefully UEFA come down strong.”
The FA released a statement which read: “It is extremely disappointing to hear reports of discriminatory actions towards some of our England players.
“We will be asking FIFA to investigate the matter. We continue to support the players and staff in our collective determination to highlight and tackle discrimination in all its forms.”
After a first half bereft of shots on target, Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock with a clipped shot 10 minutes into the second period before a pair of headers by Harry Kane and Harry Maguire soon after and a late Declan Rice strike sealed a 4-0 win.
England had struggled to break down the deep-lying Magyars but the second-half goal haul meant they easily passed their first test since losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties.
“It was comfortable in the end,” said Southgate afterwards. “I was very pleased, even in the first half as we were in total control of the game, but we just weren’t able to get the final pass,” he said.
The Three Lions now have a maximum 12 points from four games, five more than second-placed Poland who beat Albania 4-1 on Thursday and who host England in Warsaw next Wednesday.
Sweden beat Spain 2-1 in Stockholm on Thursday to take control of their group in World Cup qualifying, while Italy were held by Bulgaria in their first match since winning Euro 2020.
Elsewhere, Belgium thrashed Estonia, and Germany claimed an underwhelming win against Liechtenstein in Hansi Flick’s first match as coach.
Viktor Claesson’s second-half strike, after excellent work from Juventus winger Dejan Kulusevski, put Sweden two points clear of Spain at the top of Group B with a game in hand.
Carlos Soler had given Spain a fifth-minute lead, but Alexander Isak levelled for the hosts just a minute later.
Only the group winners qualify automatically for the 2022 tournament in Qatar, with the runners-up facing a playoff.
Spain have reached every World Cup since last failing to qualify in 1974, but have plenty of work to do to continue that run.
“Our position is getting very complicated, we no longer have it in our own hands,” admitted Spanish skipper Sergio Busquets.
“We were playing well, but we missed that bit of luck. We have to continue, there are still many matches.” Italy extended their national record unbeaten streak to 35 matches, but it was not the celebration in Florence Roberto Mancini’s men were hoping for as they returned to action following their penalty shootout triumph over England in the European Championship final in July.
Federico Chiesa gave the Azzurri the perfect start with the opening goal in the 16th minute, but Atanas Iliev’s equaliser five minutes before halftime gave Bulgaria a 1-1 draw.
Italy, who missed out on the 2018 finals in Russia, remain top of Group C, but Switzerland, four points adrift, have two games in hand.
Poland now sit second in the table, five points behind England who they meet in Warsaw next week, after Robert Lewandowski netted in a 4-1 win over Albania.
Germany struggled for long periods against Liechtenstein in St Gallen but eventually won 2-0 for a crucial three points.
Flick was visibly frustrated at times but will be happy that his two much-maligned forwards, Timo Werner and Leroy Sane, both got on the scoresheet.
The four-time world champions next host group leaders Armenia, who they trail by one point, on Sunday.
Armenia were held to a goalless draw by North Macedonia.
Romelu Lukaku scored a double as Belgium cruised to a 5-2 success over Estonia in Tallinn.
Roberto Martinez’s men are three points ahead of the Czech Republic, who beat Belarus 1-0, at the top of Group E.