England put themselves on the brink of qualification for Euro 2020 with a 6-0 thrashing against Bulgaria but the match was marred by racist chanting by the home fans.
Gareth Southgate’s side were 4-0 up in the first half but the referee had to halt the match twice because of the abuse directed towards some of the England players.
The game was in danger of being abandoned but the were no further stoppages in the second half and the full 90 minutes were completed.
A quiet opening few minutes were reflected by the eerie silence from the stands, with plenty of empty seats even in the areas open to home fans.
They were on their feet and jeering as Jordan Henderson’s late foul on Kamen Hadzhiev earned the Liverpool midfielder an early booking.
But it was the England fans celebrating soon after as two of the players Southgate recalled combined for the first goal.
Barkley passed to Rashford and, after sitting a Bulgarian defender on his backside, the Manchester United man arrowed in a seventh-minute opener from an acute angle, although goalkeeper Plamen Iliev should have done better.
Bulgaria created their first chance of the evening soon after but Jordan Pickford in the England goal was able to get down and push away captain Ivelin Popov’s effort from outside the box.
It would be England celebrating again instead, Barkley this time the goalscorer as he tapped in Raheem Sterling’s cross after the Manchester City forward broke in behind the Bulgaria defence.
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The evening took a turn for the worse when the game was briefly stopped as step one of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol took place in the 28th minute – a stadium announcement condemning racist abuse and stating the referee would stall or abandon the match should it continue.
Harry Kane was shown in conversation with referee Ivan Bebek on the halfway line and Southgate was also talking to a number of his players as the announcement was made.
With the game back under way, England extended their lead further as Kane crossed for Barkley to head in – the Chelsea man having been involved in all three of England’s goals in the opening 32 minutes.
There was another pause in proceedings after 43 minutes, Southgate again in conversation with the officials on the touchline and the players joining the manager on the side of the pitch.
The delay led to six minutes of added time, during which Sterling tapped in England’s fourth.
Bulgaria captain Popov was in a heated debate with a section of home supporters near the tunnel as the rest of the players headed for the dressing rooms at half-time.
Both sides returned for the second half and England should soon have been 5-0 up, Iliev making a smart stop from Rashford before Sterling sent the rebound wide.
Sterling and Kane were denied by Iliev as England continued to dominate. The former would not be denied his second for too long, as he slipped the ball under the Bulgarian goalkeeper in the 69th minute to extend England’s advantage.
Kane then added a sixth with five minutes remaining to complete the scoring as England took all three points.