England 5, Kosovo 3
Jadon Sancho scored twice as England beat Kosovo 5-3 with goals by Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, and an own goal by Mergim Vojvoda at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium.Embed from Getty Images
Valon Berisha had initially made headlines after scoring within 34 seconds as the feisty Kosovans showed why they had been unbeaten for 15 games.
Berisha scored his second and Vedat Muriqi netted a penalty in the second half before Harry Kane missed a spot kick himself but England couldn’t silence the visitors with a sixth goal with Sterling hitting the woodwork.
Entertaining though the game might have been, there will be concerns over England’s defensive solidity after the second half goals by Kosovo and wasted chances gave the visitors hope.
England have now scored 19 goals but conceded 4 in a relatively straightforward group including three goals in a home game for the first time since a 3-2 defeat at Wembley against Holland with Stuart Pearce at the helm.
One more qualifying win will send them to the finals but play like this in a European finals against top European opposition, though, and Gareth Southgate can forget abut football coming home.
Southgate had made just three changes from the side that had comfortably beaten Bulgaria, with Sancho, Ben Chilwell, and Trent Alexander-Arnold coming in for Marcus Rashford, Danny Rose, and Kieran Trippier.
Kosovo lined up with three English-based players in their side, with Aro Muric on loan at Nottingham Forest from Manchester City, and ex-City player Bersant Celina of Swansea playing in front of Huddersfield Town’s right back Florent Hadergjonaj.
England got off to a terrible start after just 34 seconds when Valon Berisha was handed the ball courtesy of a terrible pass by Michael Keane.
The Kosovan needed no second invitation to fire past Jordan Pickford to put the visitors into a shock 1-0 lead at St Mary’s – only the second goal that England had conceded in this qualifying tournament and the first goal in the first minute of an England game since May 2003 when Southgate scored against South Africa.
Lethal Sterling restored parity quickly, nodding in after Keane headed Ross Barkley’s corner back across the box less than 8 minutes later.
Harry Kane’s drilled shot put England into the lead after 19 minutes after Sterling turned and ran upfield with the ball and passed out wide to the England captain.
The ship was steadied but there was drama when Mergim Vojvoda went close with a long range effort before he turned the ball into his own net in the 38th minute after Jadon Sancho seized the loose ball and cut it back into the six yard box where only the Kosovan was waiting.
Sancho was handed a great chance to score when Sterling played the Borussia Dortmund winger in from the left and he couldn’t miss from 6 yards out as he came in from the right to score his first England senior goal in the 44th minute.
Moments later Sterling was feeding him again after roasting Hadergjonaj on the left flank and dinking the ball over Muric’s leg for another tap in by Sancho from just 3 yards out.
It was Sterling’s third assist of the game, to go with his goal, matching Manchester City team mate Kevin De Bruyne’s contribution for Belgium against Scotland this week.
He and Sancho make an irresistible wide pair either side of Kane but while England had few problems going forward, their defending let the side down.
Kosovo punish sloppy England with second half goals
Kosovo weren’t about to lay down and die, they scored 4 minutes into the second half after Declan Rice lost the ball.
Vedat Muriqi delivered it to Berisha who scored his second of the night and taking the ball down.
And things got really interesting when Muriqi was brought down by Harry Maguire for a soft looking penalty which the big man despatched himself after 55 minutes.
Ross Barkley won a penalty after being brought down by Amir Rrahmani soon afterwards but Muric guessed correctly and dived to his right to save Kane’s spot kick with 25 minutes to go despite a suspicion of being off his line as Kane struck the ball.
And Sterling’s shot was deflected against the post by Muric after Kane played him in as England tried to put the game to bed but couldn’t find a way past the reorganised visitors.
Substitute Marcus Rashford saw a shot saved while an offside Sterling blazed the rebound over as England continued to dominate but failed to score while Celina curled a late strike just past the back post.