Sancho And Sterling Star As England Beat Kosovo In 5-3 Thriller

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Raheem Sterling scored and recorded a trio of assists while Jadon Sancho hit his first England goals as Gareth Southgate's side came from behind to beat Kosovo 5-3 in Southampton. 

Kosovo led after 34 seconds of the Euro 2020 qualifier at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday, Valon Berisha giving the Three Lions a scare, but they roared back to lead 5-1 at half-time thanks to Sterling's inspirational display.

He levelled the scores with a header and set up Harry Kane to make it 2-1 before Mergim Vojvoda's own goal, Sterling then providing assists for Sancho's two strikes in an action-packed Group A clash.

 

England lost their focus after the interval with Berisha netting again and Vedat Muriqi converting a penalty - a feat Kane failed to match soon after - to make the final scoreline closer than Sterling's superb showing deserved.

Kosovo were gifted an early opener when Michael Keane's loose pass allowed Fidan Aliti to tee up Berisha for his second international goal since changing allegiance from Norway.

The hosts responded well and drew level in the eighth minute, Keane heading a right-wing Ross Barkley corner back across goal for a leaping Sterling to profit from close range.

Sterling then created England's second, brilliantly turning into space on halfway and feeding Kane for a powerful finish through the legs of Kosovo goalkeeper Arijanet Muric.

England opened up a four-goal advantage before the break. Vojvoda turned a low Sancho cross into his own net before the Borussia Dortmund winger opened his international account with a quickfire double.

Sloppy play allowed Kosovo to net first after the restart. Declan Rice lost the ball on halfway and Berisha curled home his second of the game, then Harry Maguire's clumsiness enabled Muriqi to reduce the deficit further from the spot.

England should have restored a three-goal cushion but captain Kane saw his penalty pushed away by Muric while the goalkeeper - on Manchester City's books - later deflected a Sterling shot on to the post.

 


What does it mean? England closing on qualification

Reaching the Euro 2020 finals always looked on the cards for England but they have made light work of their competition in Group A, scoring 19 goals already and winning all four of their games, although defensive weaknesses were exposed here. 

Kosovo are still occupying second spot in the group and have every chance of reaching their first international tournament given the impressive way they carried the fight against their lauded opponents.

 


Unplayable Sterling at top of his game

Kosovo's open tactics played into England's hands but Sterling made the most of the time and space he was routinely given in the opposition half. On current form, few players in the world are as dangerous as the City star, who it is easy to forget is only 24 years old.

 


Keane at risk of losing his place

Bernard Challandes' side pressed ferociously from the first whistle and it did not take them long to force an error from Everton defender Keane. With John Stones expected to be fit for England's next fixtures Keane will likely drop out of the team, partly due to his latest mistake.


What's next?

England have an away double-header against Czech Republic and Bulgaria next month, while October's international break sees Kosovo travel to Gibraltar and host Montenegro.