England progressed further down the road to Euro 2020, at times they sprinted, at others they stumbled but England made it four wins from four with a 5-3 win over Kosovo. The game marked England’s first ever meeting with Europe’s newest nation who’d shocked the Czech Republic three days earlier in Pristina.
Before kickoff Gareth Southgate had commented that he didn’t like England’s play without the ball against Bulgaria, but England’s defensive woes started here with the ball. Ross Barkley passed back to Michael Keane when going forward seemed easier and Keane gave the ball away in front of the penalty area and Valon Berisha slotted past Jordan Pickford after just 34 seconds. England got about their business and Raheem Sterling was quickly spinning defenders and causing problems for a strangely open Kosovo defence. After 7 minutes it was 1-1 with Keane making amends for his mistake by nodding on for Sterling to head home.
England then turned on the style, Sterling continued to probe and set away Kane to lash home on 24 minutes for 2-1, soon the floodgates opened with Jadon Sancho raiding down the right to whip in a cross that forced a comical own goal, 3-1. Then Sterling blazed away again and played in Sancho who steadied himself before picking his spot for 4-1. On the stroke of halftime the game was won with Sterling squaring for Sancho to collect his second and it was 5-1 at halftime.
But England’s start to the second half was even worse than the first. Declan Rice gave the ball away in midfield and a pinpoint long pass found Berisha who wrong footed Jordan Henderson to open up the space for a shot which he steered into the top corner for 5-2. Just 4 minutes later it got worse as Harry Maguire needlessly brought down Vedat Muriqi who duly picked himself up to put away the spot kick, despite Pickford getting a hand to the ball.
England were rattled but Barkley’s marauding run earned a penalty which after a lengthy delay Kane unexpectedly missed, although had VAR been present it would have been retaken as Arijanet Muric darted forward from his line. Sterling then saw a simple chance nicked onto the post. But England entered game management mode and saw out the game 5-3.
Pickford- 6., Alexander-Arnold- 7, Keane- 5, Maguire- 6, Chilwell- 5, Rice- 6, Henderson-7, Barkley- 7, Sterling- 9, Sancho- 8, Kane- 7, Sub: Mount- 7
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