England 5 Kosovo 3: Kane, Sancho and Sterling magnificent in attack but Southgate will worry about Three Lions shaky defence
THERE are three nailed-on starters for England’s Euro 2020 opener next summer.
The other eight are up for grabs.
England’s front three – the exceptional Raheem Sterling, plus Harry Kane and Jadon Sancho – are certainties after this.
To score five before half-time, to treat St Mary’s to a performance of genuine shock and awe was something special.
The problems begin when England’s front three do not have the ball.
Defensively, with Harry Maguire and Michael Keane struggling to maintain shape and discipline, they were a shambles.
If England are to play like Liverpool, to put the house on the front three, they need to shut the garden gate.
Instead they left it wide open and invited everyone in this Kosovo team round for the evening.
They scored three and will feel they could have had more.
True, it was mighty impressive stuff going forward.
To recover from a defensive lapse after 35 seconds, to score five before the break, was stirring.
Sterling is the stand-out, the star man in England because of his enduring contribution to this game.
The City flyer decorated his latest dizzying performance by scoring one and unselfishly laying on three others. He is a joy to watch.
He makes the game look easy these days.
Sterling scored England’s equaliser, an unlikely figure rising above the Kosovo defence to steer in the first.
They had been a goal down in ludicrous circumstances, when Michael Keane tried to find Harry Maguire with a first time pass.
He will not thank Jordan Henderson for playing him into trouble, but this really was amateur hour.
Kosovo were on to it like lightening, with Vedat Muriqi feeding Valon Berisha to put the world’s 120th ranked team ahead.
The reminders of San Marino, the minnows who once took the lead against England just 8.3 seconds into a World Cup qualifier in 1993, were obvious.
This time there was a better outcome.
Once England got going, they really did look the business going forward.
Sancho won the corner after eight minutes, forcing Kosovo to defend the set-piece after scampering down the right.
Ross Barkley pinged in the corner, Keane made up for his defensive lapse with a header across goal and Sterling nodded in.
It is eight in eight for him, a magnificent return for a player who spends most of his time on the left.
The goals are welcome, but his contribution elsewhere is defining him.
He popped up in the middle of the park to start the run for Kane to make it 2-1 after 19 minutes.
His spin to create the space, sending Amir Rrahmani on to the concourses for a hotdog, is a masterpiece.
When he eventually pushed the ball out to Kane on the left, the England forward rifled it through Arijanet Muric’s legs.
The final seven minutes of the half are memorable because England scored three more in that time.
Sancho twisted blood down the right, smashing an effort across goal that was oddly dummied by his keeper and then sent past him by defender Mergim Vojvoda.
There was time for two more.
It was vintage Sterling, flicking the ball beyond his marker and then collecting it on the other side.
His run down the left took him on and on and on, looking up in time to find Sancho a yard or so from goal.
It was a simple finish, recognised by Sancho because he made sure he pointed to the man who made it for him when the guy holding the steady-cam zoomed in on him.
Sterling was at it again when he teed up the Dortmund winger for his second of the night with another exceptional turn and run just before the break.
It is nights like this, when England are playing with such freedom up front and so carelessly at the back, when you wonder how they will survive tournament football.
They conceded their second 48 minutes in when Muriqi – the best Kosovo player on the pitch by some margin – set up Berisha for his second.
If that was a little reminder for England, then there was widespread panic in the ranks a few minutes later.
Maguire, all £85m of him, needlessly fouled that livewire Muriqi inside the penalty area.
Muriqi scored it himself, confidently beating Pickford to make it 5-3 in this crazy game.
It was ridiculous, with Barkley going on to win a penalty when Rrahmani kept nibbling away at his ankles.
Kane, usually so reliable from the spot, watched Muric shift across his line quick enough to save his effort.
It is his second miss for his country, adding to his blank against Turkey at the Etihad just before Euro 2016.
They would have had the sixth, but Sterling’s next chance smacked the post.
He was easily England’s best player, the busiest and most accomplished footballer wearing a white shirt.
Next summer, they will need him.
Jadon Sancho should just shine now and on Saturdays game because I don't want him disturbing our defense on Tuesday
Buh ah dey fear alcacer more d guy na our former player and it pains more wen a former player scores against una
Champions league 4 dah matter
Kikikiki 😂 😂
Did you just indirectly mention @EXBOSS name?
city players this week
debryne 3 assist 1 goal
Bernardo Silva 3 assist ,1 goal
rahemm Sterling 3 assist ,1 goal
what a beast city are making ,this guys will come back so hungry to trash teams, I pity anybody that Manchester city will face this weekend cux they go smoke them like close up toothpaste.
so city sold this guy ,chaiii tufiakws ,if u guys know how many assist this guy already has in d bundesliga ,una go shock ,imaging he stays like 5 season there. man is going to be extra hot.