Bulgaria v England – as it happened

England have a very good record against Bulgaria. In nine games since the two teams first met at the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile, the English have won five times, drawing the other four, scoring 13 goals along the way while conceding a mere two.

Historical records only count for so much, that is true. But the last of those nine games was a 4-0 tonking at Wembley 364 days ago, in the opening game in this Euro 2012 qualifying group, Jermain Defoe the hat-trick hero. Today's England line-up includes Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Theo Walcott, all of whom are bang in form, excellent in attack during that 8-2 game at Old Trafford last weekend as they were. Bulgaria's attack, meanwhile? Their main man Stiliyan Petrov says it all: "Our game plan is to frustrate England by staying solid at the back then exploit their growing anxiety with a winning goal. The problem is where that goal might come from."

Bulgaria's main goal threat: Film noir's Dimitar Berbatov, who has prematurely retired from international football, in order to suck down filterless cigarettes, wear wide-brimmed hats, discuss existentialist philosophy in bistros over very strong cups of coffee, and listen to west-coast jazz.

This should be a shoo-in for England, you'd think. "A win for England is virtually taken for granted," writes our man in Sofia, Kevin McCarra, riffing on Fabio Capello's excellent away record (nine wins in 13). Let's see, then.

Kick off: 7.15pm BST.

England team news: Frank Lampard is dropped in favour of Stewart Downing, who plays alongside Theo Walcott, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney in an attacking line-up. At the back, Chris Smalling is handed his debut, while Gary Cahill gets the nod alongside John Terry.

The pitch: Good for grazing.

Bulgaria: Mihailov, Zanev, Bodurov, Milanov, Bandalovski, Ivanov, Georgiev, Martin Petrov, Stiliyan Petrov, Popov, Genkov.
Subs: Vladislav Stoyanov, Iliev, Marquinhos, Sarmov, Raykov, Kostadin Stoyanov, Kostadin Stoyanov.

England: Hart, Smalling, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Walcott, Parker, Barry, Downing, Young, Rooney.
Subs: Stockdale, Jagielka, Baines, Milner, Lampard, Johnson, Defoe.

Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)

The teams are out! And it's time for the anthems. First up England, and some great news! They've finally ditched that bloody dirge, and instead are pepping themselves up before battle with the theme from It's A Knockout:

OK, no they're not. It is that bloody dirge. Mind you, the Bulgarian one makes Shostakovich's Leningrad symphony sound like the theme from It's A Knockout, so no loss there.

And we're off! On a hazy evening, England - wearing dark blue shirts with sky blue trim, and sky blue shorts - get the ball rolling. "Victory Vs!" blurts out Zach Neeley. "If that's how it works, England is in trouble. Every Bulgarian player but one has a V in their name, 20 in total (I know, I'm wasting my life.) Do you think Marquinhos feels left out, gets teased on the playground?"

2 min: Both sides share the ball for the first couple of minutes. Nothing much to report yet. "England's kit is hardly traditional," writes Gary Naylor, who leaves it late for his first email of the match today, "but the England fans' charmless booing of the host's national anthem shows that some things never die."

4 min: "Well, this looks like a nicely balanced England line-up who can keep the ball on the ground and pass it around with some pace," notes Phil Sawyer. "So I fully expect a disappointing 90 minutes of aimless hoofing." So here we go: a long ball over the Bulgarian back four down the right for Walcott to chase, then another down the other flank. Young doesn't even bother scampering after that one.

5 min: Martin Petrov tries to beat his former Manchester City colleague Joe Hart from 567 yards. Some respect, please, lads! A bit earlier, Gorgiev diddles down the left and tries to enter the England area, but Parker is in quickly to stop his progress. Gorgiev swallow dives into the box, but the referee isn't having any of it, and no wonder.

8 min: England can't really get anything going yet. Bodurov steps on the ball and nearly allows Young to tear off with it, three on two, but the England man dithers and Bulgaria regroup. "Dirge?! Dirge?!" splutters Ryan Dunne. "God Save the Queen is part of the songbook of the Glorious Glasgow Rangers, and we're famous for having catchy, memorable songs!" And records show the whole of Europe loves you for it.

10 min: No nerves on display from the debutant Smalling, who skidaddles down the right, reaches the byline, and digs a wonderful cross into the centre. The ball doesn't fall to an English foot, however, and the danger is mopped up.

12 min: Determined play by Downing, who twists down the left and cuts the ball back for Young. The ball's touched to Cole on the edge of the area; his shot is deflected over the bar for a corner.

13 min: GOAL!!! Bulgaria 0-1 England. The corner's cleared, but the ball's soon coming back at the home side. Barry, 35 yards out in the middle, clips a pass down the inside-right channel for Cahill, who breaks clear through a laughably huge hole in the Bulgaria defence, and pokes a shot under the advancing Mihaylov and into the bottom-left corner. A lovely pass, a decent finish by a defender, and a display of risible nonsense by the Bulgarian back line.

15 min: England have obviously got a plan to tear Bulgaria a few new ones down the flanks. Rooney chips a ball over the home defence down the inside left, Cole nearly latching onto it in the area, clear of the last man. He can't quite control, though, and the chance is gone.

18 min: Bulgaria look nervous at the back, and hapless up front. Nothing's sticking for them in the England half. Fabio Capello's side have looked super comfortable up til now.

19 min: And right on cue, having said that, Bulgaria fashion their first chance of the evening. Pulitzer, please! Cahill loses the ball in the middle of the park and it's eventually worked out to Martin Petrov, ten yards out, to the left of goal. He drags a lame low shot wide right of the target, but if Genkov anticipated that, instead of hanging around in the shadows like a minor character in one of Dimitar Berbatov's favourite films, he could have followed that in.

21 min: GOAL!!! Bulgaria 0-2 England. This is too easy for England. They win a corner on the right. Barry takes and sends the ball to the far post, where Rooney climbs high over Bodurov, who can't be bothered to jump. The striker steers a header into the top left. He celebrates, but seems almost embarrassed for the hosts while doing so.

24 min: Martin Petrov chases after a long ball down the left, but he's a mile offside. The home crowd are in a hot funk, simmering away in silence. The away boys are pelting out a chorus of Are You Scotland In Disguise? Now now. "Did I miss the dropping of the 'lucky' red England away strip?" asks Roderick Stewart. "Did it dawn on the FA that there might be other reasons they won the World Cup in 1966?" Like dodgy refereeing? Only joking. I am only joking.

26 min: A couple of minutes' worth of possession for Bulgaria in the English half, but they do very little with it. Suddenly England spring forward, Parker winning the ball and spreading it out right to Walcott, who romps down the wing, cuts inside, and feeds Rooney on the edge of the D. Rooney is this close to tapping it around Milanov and finding himself one on one with the keeper, but Bodurov comes over to hoick the ball away. As poor as Bulgaria are, England are playing very well here. Meanwhile, here's You Do The Mathematics with Adam Hirst: "No Gerrard, no Lampard, possession kept, control kept, goals scored..."

29 min: Gorgiev whips in a cross from the right. Hart comes racing off the line to claim, and gets nowhere near it. With Stiliyan Petrov lurking, Smalling heads over the bar. The resulting corner is a complete waste of time. "So is it a common side effect of hair transplants that you become the best footballer in the world?" asks Luke Stevenson, who presumably doesn't watch Sky's coverage of the Spanish or Scottish leagues. "Or shall we reserve judgement until we see what one does to Emile Heskey?"

33 min: A lull in what has been an otherwise high-tempo first half. "It can't be the case that Capello's actually done something right now, can it?" asks Paul Taylor. [Hack checks diary] Yeah, he's not due another ludicrous slagging again until next June, when it'll be his fault, and his alone, that England aren't as good as Scotland Spain.

35 min: Parker is booked for a late studs-up challenge on (and I reserve the right to be very wrong here) Ivanov.

37 min: Martin Petrov tries another shot from distance against Hart. Did he find out the England keeper's Achilles heel during Manchester City training, one wonders?

39 min: Ah, maybe a few nerves from Smalling, whose hesitation nearly allows Genkov a shot on goal down the inside-left channel. The offer is spurned. "Please specify which movement of the Leningrad symphony you meant," asks Tony Feld, who has got me pegged for a classical-music chancer and no mistake. "If you were talking about the first movement then I´d even approve. A, some say, ironic, but rousing call to arms that might even inspire some sharp midfield running, because lord knows Bulgaria could do with some of that! However, nowhere near his best. However, the rest of the symphony is redolant of Mahler and very contemplative in places (I think particularly the 3rd movement), that would not bode for a good performance, no. For real tragedy, you might go to the Fifth Symphony, 3rd movement where they sing the Russian hymn for the dead." Right, aye. Are we OK with Bean Bag by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass for England, though? Or would you prefer Spanish Flea?

42 min: Bulgaria are seeing a lot of the ball, and most of it in the England half to boot. But they're creating absolutely nothing. The home crowd are very quiet. The away support are taking the opportunity to fill the night air with stagey guffaws, bellows of sarcastic laughter, and outright abuse whenever Bulgaria misplace a pass. Which is quite often. "Whatever Capello may or may not have done for the national team, you've got to admit that we cruise through these so called tricky games these days," writes George Solomon. "I no longer worry about travelling to [insert obscure European nation here] because we keep the ball well, break well and are secure at the back. Just once we've qualified, well, that's a different story."

44 min: England are just faffing around now, waiting for a very satisfactory half of football to come to an end. "England are playing incredibly!" trills Stan Lee. "Capello's solved the left sided problem, solved the Gerrard/Lampard problem (by not playing them), solved the heavy England shirt problem. Everything is perfect. There's only one conclusion and that is England's going to win the European Championship!" Remember, kids, irony is flat on the page.

45 min +1: GOAL!!! Bulgaria 0-3 England. For the third time in the half, Martin Petrov tries to beat Hart from nearly 40 yards. Oh come on. He's punished for his cheek as the ball clatters into Parker's front tail - or is it his hand? - and England stream upfield. On the edge of the area, Walcott clips a clever reverse pass out right for Young, who slides an immediate pass straight into the middle, where Rooney is all alone - this Bulgarian defence is a risible shambles - and sidefoots home into an empty net. I think the keeper Mihaylov might have popped out to the shops.

HALF TIME: Bulgaria 0-3 England. A half of clinical brilliance from England. Let's not riff on Bulgaria's pain.


All together now!

And we're off again! Bulgaria replace Bandalovski with Sarmov. Here's a gallery of tonight's game. And here's some feelgood chat from Simon Horwell. Enjoy, enjoy! "I think you're being pretty generous in your MBM of England's performance. I'm all for being patriotic and all that nonsense but England have looked typically awful. This is arguably the worst 3-0 lead I have ever seen. Born almost entirely out of the ineptitude of the Bulgarian defence. Shorn of Wayne Rooney, this team would be a laughable prospect. The real down side to this performance is that it will fortify Capello's belief that Parker and Barry are a good midfield combination. The sooner the Italian does us all a favour and retires, the better. Four years (and 20 odd million) on and we still play some of the worst football on the international stage (save Bulgaria). It probably doesn't help that we have Stuart Pearce in charge of the u21 team. A man that shouldn't be allowed near one young player, let alone all of them."

48 min: A dangerous run by Milanov down the right and into the area gets the crowd going a wee bit. Terry is soon over to get in his road, and batter the ball away from danger. "Taxi in the name of Gerrard, Lampard, Crouch, Defoe, Owen M, Upson, Johnson G, Cole J, Cole C, Wright-Phillips, Lennon, Ferdinand, Carrick!" announces Adam Hirst, the nearest we've got to Danny DeVito. "Terry? Yours isn't here yet, Mr Jones will be along for you in just a second."

50 min: A free kick, from deep on the right wing, finds the head of Ivanov eight yards out from goal. He can't control his header, the ball flashing wide and high. A better showing for Bulgaria so far; it's almost as though coach Lothar Matthaus has just given them the mother of all bollockings.

52 min: Popov flips Young into the air, 25 yards out to the left of the area. Young gets up and sets Downing free down the left, but the Liverpool winger hits the first man with a poor cross. A real chance there, with folk waiting to convert in the middle. "Is Rooney like Samson?" wonders James Boden. "His powers diminished along with his hairline, now with the new hair all of a sudden he is in the form of his life! I hope Colleen is no Delilah."

53 min: Now it's Young's turn to hit a dreadful cross in a promising position, set free on the left by Barry, who could have taken a shot from the edge of the area but opted to slide his team-mate clear. Young can't get the ball past the first man either. This is sloppy.

54 min: A corner for Bulgaria down the right. Martin Petrov takes. Stiliyan Petrov gets eyebrows on it at the near post, forcing Hart to parry clear. Good play all round.

55 min: Walcott loops a cross from the right to Downing at the far post, ten yards out. He directs a header wide of the static Mihaylov, but clanks off the right-hand post and out. He's not having much luck with the woodwork so far this season, the Liverpool man.

56 min: It's all happening now. Barry clatters one goalwards from 25 yards down the inside-right channel. Mihaylov parries clear. "I'm no fan of Capello who is being paid a pension he doesnt need for doing not much," writes Rob McEvoy. "However, to slate him when we are 3 nil up in a potentially tricky game is a bit much. It's not his fault that Euro qualifiers are as competitive as the Scottish league with Celtic / Rangers not involved. You can only beat what is put in front of you, and we are doing that 3-0 away.
Never forget how difficult this game would have looked under Second Choice Steve."

59 min: A booking for Sarmov. "On a pedantic note, it wasn't Delilah that cut off Samson's locks," writes Phil Sawyer. "She actually got one of her handmaidens to do it. Therefore Rooney should only start looking nervous if he sees one of the hired help with scissors in her hands. Mind you, what Wayne would do with a handmai[Snip! Sawyer Family Lawyers]"

61 min: Great play from Young down the right, who twists through 180 degrees to spin off his man and reach the byline. He dinks the ball in to Walcott, who fannies around instead of shooting and the chance is gone. It's the last thing Young does this evening, as he's replaced by the less exciting James Milner. Bulgaria make a change too, Genkov being hooked for Bozhilov.

64 min: Frank Lampard is warming up on the touchline. Having been dropped from the team, and with Milner on ahead of him, he's not looking very happy. "Shostakovich's Number Seven was to commemorate Stalingrad," writes Richard Whittall. "The weird clown march was supposed to be the Nazis, a theme so odd and inappropriate, Bartok made fun of it in his Concerto for Orchestra."

67 min: England are pinging it around very nicely now. Ping, pass, ping, ping, pass, pass, ping, ping, pingity pass. Eventually Ivanov gets fed up of this nonsense and clatters Parker. Not worth a booking. Not worth describing either, really, when I think about it, but I've typed it up now.

69 min: Bulgaria pass it around awhile themselves, but upon reaching the edge of the English box, slowly shrink back down the pitch and eventually hack the ball out of play under no pressure whatsoever. If this was an early Disney cartoon, there would be zig-zag lines shooting out of Lothar Matthaus's head. He looks beside himself with anger.

71 min: Cole appears to have released Downing into the area down the left, but the winger's just offside. "Irony?!" yelps Ryan Dunne, with reference to the Hot Reader Chat of 44 mins. "Surely everyone knows that Stan 'Excelsior!' Lee does excitement, bluster and tales of the unlikely, making him an ideal En-ger-Land fan."

74 min: The ever-bustling Rooney releases Walcott down the inside-right channel. It's got to be a goal, with Mihaylov stranded on the penalty spot, but though Walcott chips over the keeper with ease, he directs the ball miles wide right. That was a dismal finish. Meanwhile here's Robin Hazlehurst, re Rob McEvoy (56 mins): "I'm not an expert on Scottish football (c'mon, who is?) but I'd have thought that the Scottish league without Celtic and Rangers would in fact be pretty competitive. Rubbish, maybe, but competitively rubbish."

77 min: We're just marking time now. Here's Phil Sawyer re min 67: "So is pingy passy the new tiki taka?" Probably not, though we might be able to pen a novelty top-ten hit record out of this, if we put our heads together.

80 min: Lampard finally gets a run out, replacing Barry. "I don't know what Wikipedia page Richard Whittall has been reading, but it certainly wasn't this one," writes Matthew Cobb. "The 7th was about Leningrad, not Stalingrad, as any fule kno. And in my opinion, it's deeply stirring stuff, so there Mr Bartok." I should have got someone down from Film & Music to sub this exchange. We got the Herb Alpert stuff right, at least.

82 min: Marquinhos replaces Popov. "To clarify, I meant Celtic or Rangers, not missing Celtic and Rangers," writes Robert McEvoy. "I agree with that point, and if the SFA had balls of steel....... slow night isn't it." Aye, and they're fair drawing in, too.

84 min: Milanov is booked for hacking the ball out of play in a fit of pique. Meanwhile a change for England: Walcott off, Johnson on. "Why on earth bring 33-year-old Lampard on rather than give Phil Jones a cap in a game it's impossible to lose?" rages George Ankers. "It's a better starting line-up today from Capello but still the same nonsensical substitutions."

86 min: Rooney tries to tear clear down the left, but can't quite escape the attentions of Ivanov. "Is it just me, or do England usually win as boringly as they lose?" yawns Gary Naylor. "If anyone is thinking of listening to Talksport over the next few days, I'll
save you the trouble. WE'RE GOING TO WIN THE WORLD CUP!"

88 min: Lampard feeds Milner down the right. Milner whips a majestic low cross through the six-yard area, but Rooney can't quite connect as he slides in with a leg extended telescopically.

90 min: A firecracker has been thrown onto the pitch at Joe Hart's end. That's all there is to report. What a non-event this half has been, though you can't blame England for that. "Lovely Leyton Orient still run out to Herb's Tijuana Taxi," writes Ian Burch. "Of course Barry Hearn changed it to Tina Turner's Simply the Best for a while, but even he knew he was stretching it a bit far there."

90 min +1: There will be two added minutes of this. Nothing happens in the first. Richard Hooker would like to second Rob McEvoy of 56-mins fame: "While nobody would pretend that this Bulgaria team are as good as the glorious Spain, for example, it's worth remarking that Spain are 2-1 down to Chile at the moment. I'd have thought that it's possible to recognise that being up 3-0 is better than being down 3-0 against Bulgaria without being accused of hailing a new golden age of English football."

FULL TIME: Bulgaria 0-3 England. Rooney has a split-second window to get a shot away six yards out, level with the left-hand post, but can't get the ball out from under his feet. And that's that, though 0-4 wouldn't have flattered a very impressive England, or insulted a dismal Bulgaria. "Leningrad, Stalingrad, all we need to know is England won the thing, right?" quips Richard Whittall. Late-night satire at the weekend, it's as though TW3 was never taken off the air. Night, everyone.

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