England began the process of building for the miniEURO2013 event with a resounding 6-1 victory over Bulgaria in Wembley.
The England team was much changed from the one which failed to qualify for the knockout stages of miniEURO2012 in Moldova, but the new players gelled quickly and proved too strong for their opponents.
The match was played in strong winds and freezing temperatures on Wembley’s top Astroturf pitch, but the skills on view from Chris McKintosh’s men warmed the crowd.
The impressive Harry Healey – making his international debut – had the honour of scoring the first ever home goal for the England team, cutting inside and finding the corner after six minutes. Just two minutes later, Healey was brought down by a mistimed tackle after some trickery saw him find his way into the box. Skipper Craig Carby kept his cool to stroke home from the spot.
England adapted to the conditions more quickly and continued to press for more goals throughout the first period, with James McCluskey and the industrious Ferrad Sofiane going close to adding to the score.
The home side continued to dominate, displaying a more ruthless streak than in Moldova, another debutant Rikki Cable hit the post and right on the stroke of half time, Aaron Morgan might have notched a third.
It appeared at half time, as the wind started to get stronger and the temperatures fell, that the next goal would be a crucial one. If England scored it, you sensed the game might be beyond Bulgaria, if however, the visitors – roared on by around 30 spectators who had travelled from their homeland – were to claw one back, there might just have been a thrilling comeback.
England, though, were in no mood to relinquish their first chance of glory on home soil and Kurtice Herbert scored his first ever international goal just after half time, sweeping home a cross at the back post after fine all round team play, to make the lead a daunting one.
In order to give their whole squad a chance to sample the match, The Bulgarian manager made wholesale changes midway through the second half and England took advantage, Cable finding the target after his first half near miss, rolling home calmly. James McCluskey, who had also gone close in the first period, did likewise and became the latest England man to find the net for the first time.
The hard working Herbert added another to the score and Isa Hussein, a veteran of the of the Moldova squad rounded off the home sides night.
Despite the scoreline the visitors had been spirited opponents throughout and England’s stand-in goalkeeper Chris Paige, deputising for James Dalton, who is on duty with the England Partially Sighted Squad at the World Cup in China, made a fine double save to deny two Bulgarian attackers.
Paige’s defence was breached right at the death, however, as Dimitar Aleksandrov crashed home a free kick, which arrowed into the corner of the net to give the visitors some consolation for their efforts.
That just left time for the post-match presentations, which saw England Captain Craig Carby generously and graciously hand over the trophy to the visitors in recognition of their trip and JP Collier claim the man-of-the match award for his classy midfield display.