Alexander Tonev's first three international goals helped Bulgaria to a 6-0 demolition of Malta in Sofia.
With FIFA World Cup qualifying Group B leaders Italy not playing on Friday, Luboslav Penev's unbeaten men were aiming to close to within a point of the summit, and Tonev set them on their way inside six minutes. By the midway point of the second half he had completed his hat-trick, goals from Ivelin Popov, Emil Gargorov and Ivan Ivanov underlining Bulgaria's dominance.
The tone was set from the start, when Gargorov released Tonev on the inside right channel and the midfielder gave Andrew Hogg no chance with a low diagonal strike. It was his first senior international goal and he did not have to wait long for his second, seven minutes before the break, when he completed a solo run with an effort that evaded Hogg.
Any hopes Malta had of recording their first Group B points had vanished two minutes after the restart as Popov turned in Georgi Milanov's cross. It was soon 4-0 as Vladimir Gadzhev won possession on the edge of the visitors' box and fed Gargorov, who fired low into the net. Defender Ivanov also got on the scoresheet before the night was out, but the headlines belonged to Tonev.
On 68 minutes the KKS Lech Poznań man completed his haul with a long-range strike, Bulgaria's first hat-trick since Dimitar Berbatov hit three against Georgia in October 2009.