MX23RW : Sunday, September 22 11:51:29| >> :600:487358:487358:
Sep 10, 2019 at 7.45pm UK at ​Wembley Stadium
Attendance: 31,000
England
5-3
KosovoKosovo
Sterling (8'), Kane (19'), Vojvoda (38' og.), Sancho (44', 45')
FT(HT: 5-1)
Berisha (1', 49'), Muriqi (55' pen.)

Result: England survive Kosovo scare in eight-goal thriller

England make it four wins from four in Euro 2020 qualifying courtesy of a breathless 5-3 win over Kosovo at Southampton's St Mary's Stadium.

England have moved to within one win of booking their place at Euro 2020 courtesy of a madcap 5-3 win over international newcomers Kosovo this evening.

Watching England play at Southampton's St Mary's Stadium for only the second time, the south coast crowd were treated to an entertaining affair which saw England go a goal down within a minute before going into half time with a 5-1 lead.

The front three of Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Jadon Sancho all got on the scoresheet - in addition to an own goal - as the hosts continued their free-scoring qualifying run by making it 19 goals in their four wins from four so far.

However, it was far from a perfect performance and Kosovo threatened to claim a huge scalp with two goals back in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.

Ultimately the minnows - ranked 116 places below their hosts - fell short of extending what had been Europe's longest unbeaten run, but they would have won a number of admirers for their performance in their first ever meeting with England.

England's Jadon Sancho celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling on September 10, 2019© Reuters

Gareth Southgate made three changes to his side after warning that Kosovo would provide the toughest test of their qualifying campaign so far, and his caution looked as though it could come true when his side fell behind after just 34 seconds.

The visitors were coming off the back of the biggest win in their three-year history as a FIFA-approved nation and pounced on a dreadful early error to stun St Mary's with arguably their biggest ever goal.

Michael Keane gifted possession straight to Vedat Muriqi, who immediately released Valon Berisha to sweep the ball past Jordan Pickford for a dream start.

Kosovo's Valon Berisha celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates on September 10, 2019© Reuters

It was the quickest goal England had conceded since a similarly unlikely one against San Marino in 1993, although as was the case on that occasion they wasted no time in bouncing back from the shock.

Kosovo's lead lasted only seven minutes before Keane went some way to atoning for his error, rising highest to meet a corner and nod it back across goal for Sterling to head home from close range.

Sterling turned provider for the second as he span away from a headstrong charge from his marker before racing forward and playing in Kane, who added to his hat-trick against Bulgaria with a typically clinical and crisp finish through the legs of Arijanet Muric.

England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their second goal on September 10, 2019© Reuters

Kosovo were refusing to alter their own style of play as they continued to get forward at every available opportunity, and Berisha flashed a low ball across the face of goal moments after England's second.

Mergim Vojvoda was the next to come close for the visitors with a low drive which rippled the side-netting on its way through, although the same player was bemoaning his luck at the other end just a minute later as he turned the ball into his own net.

Sancho darted down the right flank before firing a low cross into the box, and Muric's decision to leave the ball did not allow Vojvoda enough time to react as it hit him and rolled over the line.

Kosovo boss Bernard Challandes was angry with the goal after England refused to kick the ball out for one of his players during the buildup, and his mood was not improved with two more goals at the end of a breathless first half.

Once again Sterling was the creator as he found Sancho, who drilled the ball home at the near post for his first international goal.

Number two quickly followed for the Borussia Dortmund starlet, who tapped home from close range after another set-up from Sterling to make it three goals in the space of eight minutes for England and five before half time.

England's Jadon Sancho celebrates scoring their fourth goal against Kosovo on September 10, 2019© Reuters

England had looked dangerous every time they went forward during the opening 45 minutes, but their defence was far from watertight and Kosovo exposed that again as they once more came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second half.

Southgate's side had a chance to add to their lead before Kosovo began their comeback, though, with Trent Alexander-Arnold drawing a save from Muric with a left-footed half-volley.

Still the visitors had no intention of damage limitation, and they were rewarded for their exuberance with a second goal four minutes after the restart when Berisha collected a lofted pass into the area before cutting inside Jordan Henderson and picking out the top corner.

England will have no doubt expected a similar response to conceding in the first half, but this time it was Kosovo who got another quickfire strike.

Harry Maguire fluffed his lines from a clearance and then brought down Muriqi when attempting to make up for his mistake, allowing the Fenerbahce striker to fire home from the penalty spot despite Pickford getting a hand to the effort.

Kosovo's Vedat Muriqi reacts after being awarded a penalty due to being fouled by England's Harry Maguire on September 10, 2019© Reuters

It was the first time England had conceded three times in a home game since February 2012 and gave Challandes's side more than a glimmer of hope, something which will have only grown when England missed a penalty of their own shortly after the hour mark.

Besar Halimi's clumsy challenge on Ross Barkley sent the Chelsea midfielder tumbling to ground inside the area, and Kane took on the spot-kick duties despite Sancho being a goal away from a hat-trick - understandably given his recent record from penalties.

However, the captain was denied on this occasion by a fine stop from Muric, who parried the ball away to keep the deficit at two.

Kosovo's Aro Muric celebrates with Amir Rrahmani after saving a penalty from England's Harry Kane on September 10, 2019© Reuters

England were looking the more likely to score again, though, and Alexander-Arnold curled a free kick wide before Sterling was denied his second by the woodwork, with Muric deflecting his effort against the outside of the post when one on one.

Sterling came within a whisker of England's sixth one minute later when his shot at the end of a rapid counter-attack deflected off a defender and trickled past a wrong-footed Muric, who was relieved to see it bobble wide of the target.

Southgate did not turn to his bench until the 85th minute, and his two introductions almost made an immediate impact when Mason Mount released Marcus Rashford, who cut inside and forced another stop from Muric before an offside Sterling blazed the rebound over.

Kosovo's threat carried right through until the final whistle, though, and Swansea City's Bersant Celina almost set up a blockbuster finale two minutes from the end of normal time when he curled a low strike inches past Pickford's far post.

England did hang on for the win to stay in complete control of Group A - meaning that victory in Prague next month will seal their place at next summer's tournament - although the difficulty they had against a team ranked 120th in the world will be a concern for Southgate.

ENGLAND (4-3-3): Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Keane, Maguire, Chilwell; Henderson, Rice, Barkley (Mount 83'); Sancho (Rashford 85'), Keane, Sterling

KOSOVO (4-2-3-1): Muric; Vojvoda, Rrahmani, Aliti, Hadergjonaj; Voca (Rashkaj 59'), Halimi; Muslija (Paqarada 46'), Celina, Berisha (Hasani 85'); Muriqi

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