Just 53 days after the pain of losing on penalties to Italy at Wembley, the Three Lions were back in action as their quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup continued with a comfortable 4-0 victory in Budapest, where racist chanting was reportedly heard during the second half.
Sterling turned in the opener after the break before setting up Harry Kane, with Maguire heading in soon after and Declan Rice scoring from distance to wrap up the win and maintain England’s perfect start to Group I.
Hungary had held both France and Germany to draws at the Puskas Arena during the European Championships and this always looked like England’s toughest test of qualification.
But they are now unbeaten in 14 games against Hungary and have not lost a World Cup qualifier since 2009.
This ground will be empty for the next two UEFA-organised matches following sanctions after racist and homophobic abuse marred Hungary’s Euro 2020 fixtures, with the third match of a stadium ban suspended.
With no away fans in attendance, the jeers that met England’s players taking the knee before kick-off in the now-familiar stance against racism and discrimination were deafening.
There was a report of monkey chants during the second half, with cups thrown at Sterling following the opening goal and a flare tossed on after Maguire’s effort, surely meaning further sanctions await.
England defender John Stones, who won his 50th cap in Budapest, said he didn’t hear the chants but admitted the team had been galvanised by the toxic atmosphere.
“I think we definitely have the mindset of ‘let the football do the talking’ and tonight we did that.
“We celebrated our goals as if it is the last one we will score and that is an incredible thing to have as a team and as players.
“We live the game and are so passionate for the shirt and how we conduct ourselves on the pitch. It is our passion, let our football do the talking and that showed tonight.”