England recovered from an early scare against Kosovo to secure a crazy 5-3 victory in Euro 2020 qualifying at St Mary’s on Tuesday evening.
The visitors enjoyed the perfect start as Valon Berisha profited from a Michael Keane mistake to open the scoring with less than a minute on the clock. However, Three Lions star man Raheem Sterling equalised only a few minutes later, with Harry Kane completing the turnaround with a devastating finish. Mërgim Vojvoda put through his own net to compound Kosovo’s misery. Jadon Sancho was then twice set up by Sterling to build an emphatic lead just before the break.
The hosts started the second-half as poorly as the first as Berisha latched onto a wonderful pass from Vedat Muriqi for an exquisite, curling finish into the far corner. Following his two assists, the Fenerbache striker was then the next on the scoresheet as he converted a penalty awarded for a Harry Maguire foul.
To extend the drama, Kane then missed a penalty of his own midway through the second-half as Aro Muric produced a wonderful stop.
Nightmare start for England but Sterling replies
It could potentially have been a tricky night for Gareth Southgate’s men and it looked to be even harder as with less than 30 seconds on the clock, Keane sloppily gave the ball away to Muriqi and the forward rolled the ball into Berisha’s path. The striker then confidently placed the ball past Jordan Pickford with a cool finish.
Kosovo’s lead was not to last very long though as Keane atoned for his error as he leapt highest from a corner and knocked the ball to Sterling. The Manchester City man had also got away from his marker to head the ball into the net.
Three Lions complete turnaround
Sterling was then key as England seized the lead. Rolling his marker in the centre of the park, he then stormed towards the penalty area, played Kane down the left flank and the Tottenham captain buried the ball through the legs of Muric.
Fellow winger Sancho then begun to steal the headlines as the Three Lions extended their lead further. The Borussia Dortmund man picked up the ball on the right wing and fired in a dangerous, low ball. Vojvoda was placed in the centre of the penalty area but just failed to sort out his feet and only served to place the ball into the bottom corner of his own net.
Sterling and Sancho combine again and again
The hosts were particularly dangerous on the wings and Sancho had enough time before the break to twice get on the scoresheet. On a blistering counter-attack, the youngster was played through by Sterling and buried the ball into the bottom corner for his first England goal. Sterling then skipped past his marker again barely two minutes later and dinked a delicious pass into Sancho for another easy finish with Muric stranded.
Kosovo managed to get on the scoresheet again immediately following the resume as Muriqi managed to pick out his strike partner Berisha. The Lazio forward then checked inside Trent Alexander-Arnold and curled a sumptuous effort into the top corner of the England net.
The deficit was crazily reduced even further only a few minutes later as Harry Maguire conceded a penalty for a lunging challenge on Muriqi. The Fenerbache man indeed was the one to step up and managed to convert, albeit via Pickford’s fingertips.
Hosts compose themselves to regain three-goal cushion
England managed to stem the tide of Kosovar attacks as the half progressed and even had their own opportunity from the penalty spot as Ross Barkley was hauled down in the box. Kane stepped up but this time could not beat Muric as he produced a wonderful stop.
Sterling could also have got another but the goalkeeper did well to get out to his teammate and tip his effort onto the post. Bersant Celina then almost made it an uncomfortable end to the game as he cut inside but curled his effort just wide.
Where to start with this one? Despite a brilliant showing from the visitors, England probably deserved the three points on the balance of play. That should not take anything away from Kosovo though. Bernard Challandes were a fantastic watch and but for some defensive lapses could well have been good value for a draw. The game really did have everything; goals, drama, penalties, contentious decisions and much more. As it happens though, the Three Lions extend their lead at the top of the Group A table.
England: Pickford (6); Chilwell (7), Maguire (5), Keane (5), Alexander-Arnold (6); Rice (6), Henderson (6), Barkley (6) (Mount (N/A), 83′); Sancho (8) (Rashford (N/A), 85′), Kane (7), Sterling (9).
Kosovo: Muric (7); Hadergjonaj (6), Aliti (5), Rrahmani (5), Vojvoda (4); Halimi (6), Voca (6) (Rashkaj (6), 59′); Berisha (8) (Hasani (N/A), 85′), Celina (7), Muslija (6) (Paqarada (6), 46′); Muriqi (8).
Goals: Berisha (1′, 49′), Sterling (8′), Kane (19′), Vojvoda OG (38′), Sancho (44′, 45+1′), Muriqi PEN (55′)
Referee: Felix Zwayer
Yellow Cards: Halimi (63′), Paqarada (65′), Aliti (70′), Berisha (83′), Rashkaj (86′)
Red Cards: N/A