Bulgaria 0-3 England

By Phil McNultyChief football writer in Sofia
Gary Cahill
Cahill scored his first England goal to give them the lead on 13 minutes

Wayne Rooney maintained his golden spell of form as England eased past Bulgaria in Sofia to move a step closer to Euro 2012 qualification.

Fabio Capello's side needed to make amends for dropping two points against Switzerland at Wembley in their last qualifier - and they achieved their aim in comfort against a poor Bulgaria outfit in the Vasil Levski Stadium.

Gary Cahill, a target for Arsenal and Tottenham before the transfer window closed, put England ahead early on and Rooney was on target twice before the interval as the early hostility of the Bulgarian supporters was swiftly subdued.

Manchester United's in-form striker rose to head home Stewart Downing's corner and then rounded off a sweeping counter-attack involving Theo Walcott and Ashley Young to wrap up the formalities seconds before the break.

Rooney's United team-mate Chris Smalling was given his debut at right-back and was able to adjust to the international stage in relatively relaxed fashion as Bulgaria barely posed a threat of any consequence.

It was also a satisfying night for England coach Capello. Not only did he have a vital victory to celebrate, but his team selection was fully justified as Cahill gave an almost flawless performance in defence and Scott Parker's display made light of the surprising exclusion of Frank Lampard.

And a further boost to England's qualification prospects came after the final whistle when Wales recorded a 2-1 home win over group rivals Montenegro, who Capello's men face in their final qualifier.

The only sour note on a virtually perfect night for England came from shameful 'monkey' chanting aimed at Ashley Cole and Ashley Young from a section of Bulgaria's fans which later prompted an official complaint from the Football Association to Uefa.

England played at a tempo in attack that was too much for Bulgaria, with width provided at various times by Walcott, Young and Stewart Downing and Rooney acting as the potent spearhead.

Capello will now hope England continue the good work against Wales at Wembley on Tuesday before the crucial visit to Podgorica to face Montenegro next month.

The Italian opted for Bolton's Cahill alongside captain John Terry - and his decision was rewarded with a goal after only 13 minutes. Bulgaria gave a hint of defensive frailties to come when they failed to clear Young's corner, and when Gareth Barry found Cahill in the box he applied the finish past Nikolay Mihaylov.

Bulgaria's only attacking weapon was the wayward shooting of Martin Petrov, whereas England's attacking options were awash with movement in the shape of Rooney, Young and Walcott.

Rooney had been suffered a barren spell for England with only one goal in 15 games but he was in no mood to ignore the gifts on offer in front of an increasingly subdued Bulgarian support.

He rose above Terry to head in Downing's corner after 21 minutes and snuffed out any faint hopes of a Bulgaria recovery with England's third in first-half injury time. Parker's brave block enabled Walcott to run free and find Young, who delivered the invitation for Rooney to turn in the simplest of chances to take his international tally to 28.

Bulgaria, inevitably, raised the tempo in the opening moments of the second half and keeper Joe Hart was forced into his first meaningful action to block a deflected corner - but England were soon threatening to add to their goal tally.

Downing's looping header from Walcott's cross hit the post with Mihaylov beaten and seconds later the keeper did well to palm away Parker's powerful rising shot.

The game concluded at almost walking pace, with England content to play out time and preserve energies for the meeting with Wales as they attempt to secure a place in Poland and Ukraine next summer.


Bulgaria: Mihailov,Zanev,Bodurov,Milanov, Bandalovski (Sarmov 46),Ivanov,Georgiev,Martin Petrov, Stiliyan Petrov,Popov (Marquinhos 81),Genkov (Bozhilov 61).

Subs not used: Vladislav Stoyanov, Iliev, Raykov, Kostadin Stoyanov,Kostadin Stoyanov.

Booked: Sarmov,Milanov.

England: Hart,Smalling,Cahill,Terry,Cole,Walcott (Johnson 83), Parker,Barry (Lampard 80),Downing,Young (Milner 62),Rooney.

Subs not used: Stockdale, Jagielka, Baines, Defoe.

Booked: Parker.

Goals: Cahill 13,Rooney 21,45.

Att: 36,521.

Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).

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