England strengthened their bid for UEFA EURO 2012 automatic qualification with a comfortable Group G win in Bulgaria.
Gary Cahill, making his first competitive start, put England ahead on 12 minutes and Wayne Rooney struck twice before the break. To further boost England's position, Montenegro lost 2-1 in Wales and Fabio Capello's side are now three points clear with two games left.
Cahill's only previous appearance in the group was as a substitute in the 4-0 Wembley defeat of Bulgaria that opened England's campaign 364 days ago, and he soon had a goal as he collected a Gareth Barry ball, advanced through the home defence and shot past Nikolay Mihaylov. Bulgaria were now being overrun and eight minutes later Stewart Downings's corner from the right was headed in by Rooney. A comfortable half for England ended with Rooney striking again after his new Manchester United FC colleague Ashley Young combined well with Theo Walcott.
Bulgaria had a chance early in the second period when Stiliyan Petrov was denied by Joe Hart following Martin Petrov's corner but at the other end Stewart Downing looped a header on to the post after a Walcott cross. Walcott himself was sent free and just missed the target, but England were able to comfortably close out victory ahead of Tuesday's home game with Wales, knowing that anything other than defeat will mean a point in Montenegro on 7 October would clinch qualification. Bulgaria go to Switzerland hoping for a win to move up to third.
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