​A ludicrous encounter unfolded at St Mary’s as England beat Kosovo 5-3 to record a fourth straight victory in Euro 2020 qualifying.

The game began in remarkable fashion as Michael Keane coughed up possession on the edge of his own area, Vedat Muriqi feeding Valon Berisha, who swept the visitors into the lead after just 35 seconds.

Ben Chilwell,Trent Alexander-Arnold

Having been the villain in the opening moments, the ​Everton centre-back somewhat redeemed himself within five minutes of his dreadful error. He rose highest to guide a Ross Barkley corner onto the grateful head of Raheem Sterling, the winger nodding home from five yards out.

The Three Lions put a nightmare start behind them when goalscorer turned provider, the ​Manchester City star feeding Harry Kane, whose drilled effort sliced through Arijanet Muric’s legs.

England took the game beyond the Dardanians as the first-half drew to a close, Mergim Vojvoda turning a low Jadon Sancho cross into his own net, before the teenager grabbed the fourth and fifth for himself with a clinical finish and a tap-in.

Harry Kane

Berisha’s wonderful curling shot and a Muriqi spot-kick gave Kosovo a glimmer of hope after the break, though Kane had the chance to calm the nerves with a penalty of his own. However, the striker was denied by a strong hand from Muric, who then tipped Sterling’s attempt onto the post in the closing stages.


​England

Key Talking Point

In terms of England’s attack, the line is: it’s coming home. The defence, however, is still stuck in traffic. A flurry of errors from the hosts just about kept the Dardanians in the contest and better sides will not let Gareth Southgate’s men off so easily.

Kosovo were in this. They were very much in this and the Three Lions were made to fight for both possession and territory. Nevertheless, this would have been a straightforward three points had the backline been more assured.

On a more positive note, the attacking trident of Sterling, Kane and Sancho looks deadly. The trio were in scintillating form on the south coast and their performances mean this was still an encouraging display for England supporters.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Pickford (6); Alexander-Arnold (6), Keane (4), Maguire (5), Chilwell (7); Rice (6), Henderson (6), Barkley (7); Sancho (8), Sterling (9*), Kane (8).

Substitutes: Mount (5), Rashford (7).


STAR MAN – Raheem Sterling

Any one of the frontline could have earned the Man of the Match accolade, but Sterling takes it for his all-round contribution.

Sancho can be mightily proud of his showing, the teenager getting off the mark for his nation with a cool brace. Kane will likewise be pleased with his night’s work, despite spurning a chance form the spot.

Yet it was Sterling who tied everything together. Dropping deep to link play, finding teammates in great positions and a general menace for his opponents, the 24-year-old continues to shine on the international stage.

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Kosovo 

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Muric (4); Vojvoda (5), Rrahmani (6), Aliti (8), Hadergjonaj (5); Voca (6), Halimi (6); Muslija (7), Celina (8), Berisha (6); Muriqi (6).

Substitutes: Rashkaj (7), Paqarada (6), Hasani (5).

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Looking Ahead

England are next in action on 11 October as they travel to the Czech Republic to face a side they demolished 5-0 in round one of the European Championship qualifiers. They make the trip to Sofia three days later to do battle with Bulgaria.

Kosovo take on Gibraltar in a friendly 24 hours before the Three Lions play in Prague, with a Group A home game against Montenegro to follow on 14 October.