England crush Hungary in World Cup qualifying but abusive fan behaviour overshadows win
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BUDAPEST - Rampant England eased past Hungary in Budapest Thursday 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.
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.
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.
After his goal plastic beer glasses were also launched by fans toward Sterling who was then booed throughout, while a flare was thrown onto the pitch near where Maguire celebrated his strike, with reports of alleged monkey chants also heard.
The incidents were called "completely unacceptable" afterwards by Southgate.
14/14 - England's record in the 14 games when Raheem Sterling has scored:— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 2, 2021
"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.
England started with 10 of the team who took to the field at Wembley against Italy with Bukayo Saka dropping to the bench and Jack Grealish starting on the left wing.
Hungary, buoyed by encouraging performances at Euro 2020 where only a late Germany equaliser denied them passage to the knockout stage, were seeking their third Group I win in a row.
But England dominated possession for most of a sometimes tetchy game while intially failing to penetrate a solid defence other than early efforts from Mason Mount and Kane that both sailed over.
England nearly went ahead five minutes into the second half when Kane forced a point-blank save from home goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi before Sterling opened the floodgates soon after finishing off a sweeping move.
The busy Grealish fed Mount on the left side of the area who cut back a cross for the Manchester City star to smartly finish.
Sterling turned provider for the second minutes after, crossing for Kane to fire in a diving header, before Maguire headed home a Luke Shaw corner.
Three minutes from the end Rice capped a fine England performance by rifling in a shot from distance after Grealish teed him up.
England, now unbeaten in their last 14 meetings with Hungary, have netted 13 times in four matches in qualifying so far.
Hungary, who last qualified for the World Cup in 1986, play Albania away on Sunday and Andorra in Budapest next week.
© Agence France-Presse