GARETH SOUTHGATE’s England are facing a rare home match away from Wembley as they take on Kosovo at St Mary’s.
Top of Group A after three thumping wins, the Three Lions never had to get out of first gear as they cruised past Bulgaria at the weekend.
But the visitors will be no pushovers and arrive currently in second spot having beaten the Czech Republic last time out.
They’re unbeaten in qualifying and will believe they can cause a huge upset as they target their first major tournament.
- England 5 Kosovo 3
- Harry Kane sees penalty saved by Man City’s Aro Muric
- Berisha second and Muriqi penalty put visitors back in the game.
- Sterling, Kane, own goal and Sancho (2) give Three Lions commanding lead after early scare.
- Kosovo had taken lead after just 34 seconds.
- This game is live on ITV1 and ITV1 HD and available to stream on the ITV Hub or TVPlayer.
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- England: Pickford, Alexander-Arnold, Chilwell, Rice, Keane, Maguire, Sterling, Henderson, Kane, Barkley, Sancho
- Kosovo: Muric, Vojvoda, Rrahmani, Aliti, Hadergjonaj, Voca, Halimi, Celina, Muslija, Berisha, Muriqi
FULL-TIME: ENGLAND 5-3 KOSOVO
Well we might have thought we would get eight goals but not in this scoreline. Gareth Southgate will not be a happy man with how England played overall, having criticised without the ball last time out. After all, England lost the second half 2-0.
The return fixture in November will be fascinating especially if Kosovo can nurse the five players they were missing tonight back to health.
For me, Raheem Sterling was the standout performer, given far to much space by his opponents but he exploited to the fullest extent with three assists and a goal of his own. Vedat Muriqi was superb for the visitors – you can see why Tottenham have been watching him.
ENGLAND 5-3 KOSOVO (89 mins)
Mason Mount, by the way Chelsea fans, is fine but he is lucky. This tackle is late, it’s high and the ball is nowhere near it. Rashkaj has just kicked him really and he’s lucky it’s only a yellow card, frankly.
ENGLAND 5-3 KOSOVO (86 mins)
Mount’s first touch sees him get kicked very hard and he’s hobbling – but the referee plays advantage because Marcus Rashford is streaking away. He cuts inside and forces a strong save but Sterling is on the rebound… and it’s over the bar!
Fortunately, he is offside because that was a very, very bad miss.
At the other end, former Man City forward Bersant Celina very nearly bends one into the far corner. That would have given us a nervy finish!
At last! It’s going to be Mason Mount to make his second England appearance alongside his best friend Declan Rice in midfield. Ross Barkley makes way – after not a vintage performance if you ask me.
Marcus Rashford is coming on as well as he comes on for Jadon Sancho.
Kosova are making change too by bringing on debutant Hasani for Berisha, whose two goals have done his reputation no harm.
ENGLAND 5-3 KOSOVO (80 mins)
Tedious five minutes. No penalties, no goals – goodness, these qualifiers are dull.
If you’re bored, there is a hell of a game going on in Elbasani, where Albania have just taken the lead for the third time against Iceland.
Here, Jordan Henderson is still running around like a mad man in central midfield and Southgate still hasn’t made any changes.
ENGLAND 5-3 KOSOVO (74 mins)
If you’re playing England bingo, you must surely have it now. Sterling is played in by Kane after a shocking pass by Muric but the Kosovar goalkeeper redeems himself with a glancing save onto the post.
He goes very close to the same post a minute later when England have ANOTHER three-on-three counter-attack but his shot is blocked out for a corner.
ENGLAND 5-3 KOSOVO (70 mins)
30,155 in St Mary’s tonight – England have a free-kick 25 yards out… but Alexander-Arnold can’t curl it enough.
Still no England subs…
ENGLAND 5-3 KOSOVO (68 mins)
So, we are still at 5-3 and this mad game continues in a mad vein.
Kosovo are still insanely open and Sterling very nearly gets another shot off but this time the three-on-three results in nothing.
For that penalty by the way, Kane had to wait a whole two minutes to take it after some remonstrating with the referee and then a booking for encroachment. Did it get in his head? I’m not sure. It wasn’t a terrible penalty, just a committed save.
Oh and Muric was off his line but – and I’ll say it again – no VAR.
England’s brave Harry Kane is human!
He went to his left and Muric guesses correctly to make a strong, two-handed save and then gather the rebound.
To be fair, nothing had happened for three minutes so we needed some excitement. Ross Barkley the man brought down by Rrahmani after a surging run.
Not a convincing penalty but it was given so we must accept it (no VAR remember).
Kane to take…
ENGLAND 5-3 KOSOVO (60 mins)
Rashkaj is coming on to replace Voca in midfield. He’s a former captain of the Kosovo side so will add some experience.
Southgate meanwhile has yet to make any changes although he has a face like thunder on the touchline, which given England have shipped three in an hour you can understand.
GOAL KOSOVO! (Muriqi 55′)
Berisha, on a hat-trick, wanted the penalty but Muriqi overruled him and while Pickford got a big hand on it, it went in nevertheless.
It definitely was a penalty by the way. Maguire had blocked the cross but the ball had not gone far and he tried to stretch to poke it out for a corner and he snapped at Muriqi’s calves. No VAR in these qualifiers but we didn’t need it.
Harry Maguire has hacked down Muriqi and the referee points to the spot!
ENGLAND 5-2 KOSOVO (52 mins)
Kosovo are playing in a modern mould here – they are no San Marino or Luxembourg.
They harry the English defenders and very nearly force another mistake as Southgate’s men continue to pass out at the back.
GOAL KOSOVO! (Berisha 49′)
He’s got another! Great goal from Kosovo but again it comes from English sloppiness. Declan Rice passes the ball straight to Muriqi, who is a Tottenham target by the way, and he floats a beautiful pass over Henderson’s head as he tries to cover at right-back.
Berisha then just steps past the defender and pops it into the top corner. Brilliant for Kosova, infuriating for England I’m sure.
THE SECOND HALF BEGINS…
One change for Kosovo at half-time as left-back Leat Paqarada comes into the fray to mark that man Jadon Sancho. Good luck, Leat…
ENGLAND 5-1 KOSOVO (HALF-TIME)
England are home and hosed by the break – even if there was a brief period when an upset might be on the cards.
Kosovo have come to play but I’m afraid you cannot give Raheem Sterling this sort of space because he will shred you to pieces – and Kane and Sancho are the main beneficiaries.
Can England get into double figures? Don’t rule it out.
GOAL ENGLAND! (Sancho 45+1′)
You don’t want Kosovo to be embarrassed but it’s getting like that and Jadon Sancho has two international goals all of a sudden.
Sterling again is the provider, his third assist of the night, although I think his delicate square ball from close-range is actually a scuffed shot that Sancho, onside by a millimetre, knocked in with the goal gaping.
GOAL ENGLAND! (Sancho 44′)
Kosovo are playing so open and it’s really not helping their cause. They lose the ball on the edge of the final third, England break fast through Sterling once again and this time he finds Sancho, who takes a touch and makes no mistake.
All of the front three have now scored and Sancho, 19, has a goal for England. He’s not 20 until March. What were you doing when you were 19? I’d wager not this.
ENGLAND 3-1 KOSOVO (42 mins)
On further inspection, Man City goalkeeper Muric actually moved his foot out of the way of that cross from Sancho and that’s what threw Vojvoda, who heroically scored the winner on Saturday but is turned villain now.
GOAL ENGLAND! (O.G. Vojvoda 38′)
Oh dear. It’s 3-1 and it’s not how England would want it to have gone. Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes is going mad because he had a defender – Fidan Aliti – down injured and England played on.
Jadon Sancho drove to the byline and slipped the ball across goal where it just hits Vojvoda with no attacker really anywhere near him.
Challandes is protesting but all he’s going to get is a yellow card.
ENGLAND 2-1 KOSOVO (35 mins)
Chilwell has plenty of eyes on him tonight after coming in for Danny Rose. He whacks an errant cross and then allows Vojvoda, who scored on Saturday against the Czechs, to shoot from distance and hit the side-netting. I think Pickford was always in control.
ENGLAND 2-1 KOSOVO (30 mins)
Sterling really starting to run the show here. Turning out of blind alleys, running at players and showing the kind of skills that might see him sign a £100million Nike boot deal.
Kosovo meanwhile have had 34 per cent possession. Frankly, I would question that stat. It seems quite high.
ENGLAND 2-1 KOSOVO (25 mins)
We’ve had a period of taking stock, as both sides recover from an adrenalin-pumping opening period. Credit to Kosovo though, they are trying to press the ball when they can. You feel that will not end well for them though.
Still not seen a lot of Sancho with England focused down the left. Wonder if that might change or Sancho might come looking for the ball a bit more.
GOAL ENGLAND! (Kane 19′)
There we go! The early error is long-forgotten as England take a 2-1 lead. Raheem Sterling leads the break, driving at the defence after beating a man on halfway.
He makes a good decision to pass to Kane who moves it out of his feet, onto his left and drives it straight under Muric’s body. Fine finish for his 26th international goal in 41 appearances.