England win again in Kosovo thriller
England continued their progress towards qualification for Euro 2020 on Tuesday night with an entertaining 5-3 victory over a brave Kosovo side.
However, the performance of the England defence against opponents who attacked from the beginning and scored after 34 seconds will have given manager Gareth Southgate a few concerns.
The victory means that England are on top of Group A, having won all four of their games so far, while the Czech Republic are in second place, ahead of Kosovo, after their 3-0 win against Montenegro.
England were big favourites to win the game with sports betting companies, but Kosovo came into the match full of confidence, boasting a 15-game unbeaten streak, extended by a memorable win over the Czechs at the weekend, and they made the best possible start when Michael Keane’s blunder enabled Valon Berisha to score within the first minute.
The home side hit back on eight minutes, with Keane making amends for his error by setting up Raheem Sterling from a corner, and Sterling then provided Harry Kane with the chance to score his 26th goal for England, which he took with composure.
England then benefited from an own goal by Mërgim Vojvoda, who turned a cross by Jadon Sancho into his net on 38 minutes, before Sancho himself got onto the scoresheet with his first two international goals, both provided by Sterling, in the space of two minutes before half-time.
Leading 5-1 at half-time, England appeared to have the game sewn up, but the second half provided more attacking entertainment, and Kosovo gave themselves some hope with two goals within ten minutes of the restart, first through an excellent finish by Berisha, and the second when Harry Maguire conceded a penalty after a defensive blunder, which was scored by Vedat Muriqi.
While Southgate will have been pleased by the way that his team dismantled the Kosovo defence in a brilliant attacking display, the fact that they conceded so readily will give him plenty to think about.
The performance of Sterling was an obvious highlight, and he once again showed that he is one of the world’s most dangerous attacking talents with an excellent performance, and Sancho made an impressive impact with two goals.
However, the defensive errors from Keane and Maguire, as well as the way that the opposition was able to get at the England defence, will give Southgate plenty to think about ahead of October’s important qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
Words: Cameron Ng