Second-half goals from Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Declan Rice saw Euro 2020 finalists England eventually cruise to victory in Budapest tonight, but hosts Hungary made it difficult for their opponents for most of the first hour.
It was a feverish start in front of a packed Puskás Aréna crowd, as boisterous as ever in support of their heroes of this summer’s European Championship. However, the quality of the football in the first half of this latest FIFA World Cup qualifier didn’t quite match the intensity of the home support, neither side managing to create any clear chances as Hungary nullified an England team rich in possession but ponderous in attack. Indeed, the best chance of the half fell to Hungary’s Dominik Szoboszlai, his centrally-located 22-metre free-kick curling just over visiting goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s crossbar.
The second half started in contrasting fashion though. Firstly, Hungary escaped when Kalvin Phillips sent Harry Kane in on goal in the 49th minute, only for the Tottenham striker to scuff the ball weakly at Hungary goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi 14 metres from goal. England didn’t waste their next opportunity though, Jack Grealish releasing Mason Mount down the left and the Chelsea man’s cross from the byline being dispatched low into the far right of the goal by Raheem Sterling to give the away side the lead.
That broke Hungary’s stout resistance and further concessions were soon to come, Kabe heading in Sterling’s deflected cross and Harry Maguire getting enough power on his header from Luke Shaw’s left-wing corner for the ball to squirt off Gulácsi’s outstretched left hand and squirm inside the far right post.
Kane was then denied by Gulacsi when clean through again 12 minutes from time, but finally Hungary also exerted some pressure, substitute Kevin Varga drawing a save from Pickford from a tight angle and the same player reaching the byline and seeing his pull-back cause momentary consternation in the England defence.
Declan Rice’s low, long-range drive deceived Gulàcsi and reasserted England’s authority though, a 4-0 margin of victory possibly a little harsh on the hosts, who will know they’ll need to recover quickly with three points in Albania on Sunday if their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification dream is to stay alive.