Jadon Sancho announced himself on the international stage in some style, scoring twice on a night when England’s ruthless edge made up for some shambolic defending in a thrilling, high-scoring win against Kosovo.
A sell-out St Mary’s crowd bore witness to the most entertaining qualifier in many a year as Gareth Southgate’s men continued their march to Euro 2020 with an enthralling, if at times unconvincing, 5-3 victory on the south coast.
Defensive errors gifted Kosovo a shock opener and then second-half hope, but a clinical first half proved decisive as Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane goals were complemented by an own goal and quickfire brace from Sancho in a helter-skelter clash.
It was certainly a memorable first senior international meeting between these countries and the tough challenge predicted by Southgate, who always knew the visitors would be a far sterner test than their 120th place in the world rankings suggested.
Valon Berisha’s opener after 34 seconds underlined that point emphatically, even if it was Michael Keane acting as architect thanks to some brainless defending.
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The England defender soon breathed a sigh of relief when his header led to Sterling’s equaliser, with the Manchester City star then turning provider as Kane rifled home.
Soon it was Sancho emphasising his quality, with the 19-year-old’s cross seeing Mergim Vojvoda turn into his own net before becoming the first player born in the 21st century to score for England thanks to a quickfire double as the Kosovans fumed.
But the entertainment did not stop there. Berisha scored a superb second before Vedat Muriqi added a third from the spot after being foolishly brought down by Harry Maguire.
The Southampton crowd were rubbing their eyes in disbelief when Kane saw a spot-kick saved by Aro Muric but gutsy Kosovo were unable to capitalise as England strengthened their grip on Group A to end the visitors’ 15-match unbeaten run.
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