England 5-3 Kosovo: Gareth Southgate says good and bad points were obvious – BBC Sport

England 5-3 Kosovo: Gareth Southgate says good and bad points were obvious - BBC Sport

England v Kosovo: Who was your man of the match?

The bottom line, taking the positive view, is that England won again at the top of Group A and that means they will pass the 10-year mark since the last time they lost a qualifying match, against Ukraine in October 2009. Jadon Sancho celebrated his first international goals, Raheem Sterling maintained his sparkling form and Harry Kane enhanced his scoring statistics again. Kane is now level with Bryan Robson on the list of all-time England scorers, with 26 goals, though he passed up the chance to catch David Platt in 12th position when his second-half penalty was saved – and that in itself was a measure of how England produced the unexpected at times.

Read more It must have been lots of fun for the Southampton crowd but Southgate cannot have been encouraged by the way Kosovo scored twice in the second half without reply, especially when England had also suffered the ignominy of going behind only 34 seconds into the match – a goal that will be remembered as a personal ordeal for Michael Keane.

HARRY KANE: There is a reason the fuss about whether Marcus Rashford is a No. 9 is so ridiculous; the current incumbent of the England centre-forward position is a brilliant, brilliant finisher. As Raheem Sterling drove through the middle, Kane instinctively dropped left and the strike strike was unerring. You would trust him from that angle – with either foot – with the life of your slightly annoying cat. The rest of the night was largely spent making room for the runs of his dynamic colleagues; for a man caricatured as an ever-hungry goal monster, he seemed more than happy to play the role of foil. He was so determined not to take the headlines away from Sterling and Sancho that he generously missed a penalty.

It was one of the quickest goals ever scored against England and for Keane the difficult truth was that it was not his first calamity in this qualifying programme. The same player had also been badly at fault when Montenegro opened the scoring against England in March and perhaps the best that could be said was that, then like now, he did at least partially make up for it.

Kosovo coach Bernard Challandes flashes smile at TV cameras after going ballistic at Jadon Sancho goal

Keane headed in the equaliser in Podgorica, leading ultimately to a 5-1 victory, and this time his aerial threat led to Sterling levelling the score only six minutes after the shock of Valon Berishas opener. Sterling was inside the six-yard area and Keanes far-post header from a corner left the Manchester City player with the opportunity to nod in a goal that drastically changed the complexion of the evening.

That was Sterlings eighth goal in as many appearances for his country – could it really be true he had gone three years without scoring earlier in his international career? – though his most exceptional work came later in the first half when a brilliantly disguised turn in the centre circle led directly to Kane scoring. As Sterling drove through the middle, Kane peeled off to the left. Englands captain took the shot on his left foot and Ari Muric, Kosovos goalkeeper, let the ball run beneath his body.

Southgate was entitled to be impressed by the determination of his players to make up for what had happened in the opening exchanges. Another team might have lost confidence because it was, to say the least, an extraordinary moment: Englands players passing the ball between themselves in their own half and then Keane, trying to find Harry Maguire, presenting it straight to Vedat Muriqi, Kosovos lead striker, just outside the penalty area. Berisha turned his shot past the oncoming Jordan Pickford and, briefly, it felt like England might be in for an unpleasant evening.

MICHAEL KEANE: After we wrote after the win over Bulgaria that Keane had settled into the Gary Cahill role of being the player for whom you have no notes (good or bad) after 85 minutes, the Everton man decided to make an early mark. He f***ed it. After just 34 seconds. We would say that we miss John Stones but he might well have f***ed it even sooner. Have we sneakily become weak at centre-half again? Anyway, he at least partially atoned for his mistake with the header to set up the equaliser.

Very soon, though, the boisterous corner of Kosovo supporters found out how difficult it can be against elite opponents. Sterling, in particular, was relentless in his desire to get behind the opposition and Kosovos increasing desperation could probably be summed up by Englands third goal. Sancho drove in a low cross from the right. Muric pulled his foot away when he had the chance to block it and the ball flew in off Mergim Vojvoda for an own goal.

HARRY MAGUIRE: After 53 minutes he looked like a contender for the dismissive ‘didn’t do a lot wrong but didn’t really notice him’ role. And then he clumsily brought down Vedat Muriqi to remind us that moving for £80m did not make him any less clumsy. The post-game inquest will rightly centre around England’s potential for clusterf***; England will not be able to score five goals in every game as insurance for the back door being left wide open.

Sanchos first goal was a right-foot finish from Sterlings perfectly weighted pass and the same two players combined again to make it 5-1 in first-half added time. Sterlings pass left Sancho with the simplest of chances, barely three yards out with the goalkeeper stranded, and England had scored three times in a six-minute blitz.

JORDAN HENDERSON: Playing with the speed merchants of Liverpool has made him a master of that first-time, low, straight ball forward into the stride of those players who can do the real damage. He released both Sterling and Sancho with such balls, while doing an awful lot of the running around and pointing which has become his trademark. He was turned inside out for Kosovo’s second goal but only because he was covering for his errant defenders.

Read more Again, however, they were guilty of a strange lack of focus at the start of the next half. This time it was Declan Rice with the loose pass. Muriqis cross picked out Berisha and Englands defence were badly out of position as he cut inside Jordan Henderson to beat Pickford with a splendid, rising shot.

JADON SANCHO: Peripheral in the opening 35 minutes as The Raheem Sterling Show played to a thrilled audience, but within ten minutes, he had set up England’s third – an own goal – and claimed his first two strikes in an England shirt. This is surely now Gareth Southgate’s first-choice front three, if only because Sancho is that rare beast that likes to play from the right and largely stay there.

Maybe England were guilty of complacency. Whatever it was, they continued to defend obligingly and next it was Maguires turn to wave an apologetic hand. He had not properly managed to clear a cross and, trying to make up his mistake, tripped Muriqi. It was a clear penalty and Muriqi scored to Pickfords left.

DECLAN RICE: A typical English defensive midfielder’s performance that leads to notes that basically boil down to ‘neat, good covering, neat, won ball to set up counter-attack, f***ed up’. Is he the answer yet? We’re not really sure. Is he the best answer we can currently give? Probably. He definitely makes us feel a little less queasy than Eric Dier and right now, that will simply have to do.

The next penalty decision was less obvious, for an alleged foul on Ross Barkley, but Muric blocked Kanes effort and perhaps the only surprise was there were no more goals in the final 35 minutes.

JORDAN PICKFORD: Definitely the best goalkeeper on the pitch. And yet he was beaten three times from three shots on target, which makes it sound like he had a complete nightmare and a goalkeeping inquest should ensue. In truth, he will only really be kicking himself for the penalty; he got his hands to a spot-kick that was not struck into the corner.

Raheem Sterling made three goals and scored for England, Jadon Sancho bagged two – but it was Kosovo forward Valon Berisha who was your man of the match in the 5-3 duel in Southampton.

Berisha was handed a gift by Michael Keane to score after 34 seconds and curled in a fine second after the break too. You gave him an average rating of 7.54 to put him ahead of Sancho (7.32) and Sterling (7.21).

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