England maintained their perfect start to UEFA European Championship qualifying with a 5-3 win over a resilient Kosovo side at St Mary's on Tuesday night. Raheem Sterling pulled the strings and 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho scored twice in a five-goal first half against a Kosovo team that had been flying high so far in qualifying. A horrible Michael Keane giveaway gifted Kosovo their opener inside of a minute as Fidan Aliti set up Valon Berisha, who fired past Jordan Pickford in a shocking start for the hosts. Keane would make amends soon after, though, heading back across goal to Sterling to redirect the ball into Kosovo's net with a header of his own to bring England level. Sterling then turned provider for England's second, making a nifty turn at midfield and dribbling downfield before setting up Harry Kane for a cool left-footed finish to make it 2-1 inside of 20 minutes. An own goal from Kosovo's Mergim Vojvoda made it 3-1 when he inadvertently redirected a low Sancho cross into his own net from close range. Sancho then added England's fourth and fifth goals before half-time, finishing off a pair of blistering counter-attacks in which an electric Sterling set up the teenager for two easy finishes. The upstart Kosovars clawed one back at the start of the second half with Berisha settling a long ball over the England defence, cutting to his right and curling a shot past Pickford for his second goal of the match. "Whether it was the intensity of the game, whether it was the pressure, I don't know," Southgate said of the second-half goals from Kosovo. "In many ways it was a better experience than strolling through the game at five, six [goals] or whatever, even though we probably all could have done without it." Harry Maguire's clumsy challenge in the penalty area gave Kosovo the chance for a third goal from the spot and Vedat Muriqi, who drew the foul, calmly dispatched the chance to cut England's lead to two. Kosovo keeper Aro Muric denied Harry Kane a second of the night, saving the England forward's spot kick after Ross Barkley had been tripped up just inside the area to keep the deficit at two. The result puts England firmly in control of Group A on 12 points, with the Three Lions next in action against Czech Republic on Oct. 11. Kosovo are third with eight points and still very much in the frame to qualify for their first tournament finals, while the Czech Republic are in second place with nine points after a 3-0 victory in Montenegro.
Football EURO 2020