Luckily, the home side won 1-0.
England’s 6-0 EURO 2020 qualifying defeat of Bulgaria was twice halted by the match referee in the first half under a three-step UEFA protocol to tackle racist abuse from the crowd at the Vasil Levski stadium.
The Three Lions took a giant stride towards the finals as they bounced back from Friday’s shock loss in the Czech Republic, yet this will match will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Nazi salutes and racist chanting marred Monday’s thumping win, where Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane goals complemented braces from Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling as the players showed great dignity in finishing the match.
England manager Gareth Southgate spoke to the fourth official with around five minutes of the first half to go, while debutant Tyrone Mings was seen asking an assistant referee, ‘Did you hear that?’
England players were subjected to “abhorrent racist chanting” during the match, the Football Association said via Twitter it added: “This is unacceptable at any level of the game and our immediate focus is supporting the players and staff involved.
“As we are sadly aware, this is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behaviour in society, let alone in football. We will be asking @UEFA to investigate as a matter of urgency.”
The UEFA protocol involves the referee first halting play and making an announcement to the supporters – which occurred on 28 minutes – to immediately stop racist behaviour.
The second step sees the match suspended for some time and both teams sent to the dressing room if the abuse continues, with another warning given to the fans.
In the third and final step, the referee decides to abandon the match.
A group of Bulgarian fans left the ground and captain Ivelin Popov spoke to some other supporters during the main interval.
The game at the city’s Levski stadium was being played in front of a reduced crowd after UEFA ordered a partial closure due to racist behaviour by their supporters in June’s qualifiers against the Czechs and Kosovo.
Racism was a major talking point ahead of the game, with England striker Tammy Abraham indicating last week that the players could act as a group and leave the pitch if subjected to abuse.
Bulgarian supporters made monkey chants at visiting black players when England last travelled to Sofia for a European qualifier in 2011, prompting UEFA to fine the Bulgarian Football Union.