Budapest (AFP) – 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 first half bereft of shots on target, Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock with a clipped shot 10 minutes after the break before a brace of headers by Harry Kane and Harry Maguire 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 comfortably passed their first test since losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties.
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.
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.
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.
Plastic beer glasses were also launched by fans toward Sterling after his goal, while a flare was thrown onto the pitch near where Maguire celebrated his strike.
The Italian coach’s side, 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.
Weathering the pressure, the Hungarians occasionally mustered half-chances on the counter-attack as their confidence grew through the first half.
Right-back Bendeguz Bolla overhit a through ball to onrushing striker Adam Szalai in the box while RB Leipzig star Dominik Szoboszlai blasted a free-kick over after Szalai was felled on the edge of the area.
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.
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.