England are stronger after Sterling incident, says Southgate

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England buried the memory of Raheem Sterling's bust-up with Joe Gomez by beating Montenegro 7-0 and Kosovo 4-0.
England buried the memory of Raheem Sterling's bust-up with Joe Gomez by beating Montenegro 7-0 and Kosovo 4-0.

Gareth Southgate claimed England have emerged stronger after working through the bust-up between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez and ending their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with emphatic victories.

After being left out of the squad for England's 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro following his behind-the-scenes clash with Gomez, Sterling was restored to Southgate's side for their campaign-closing 4-0 victory over Kosovo and was involved in goals scored by Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford.

Southgate praised the way his players pulled together and indicated he is happy with the progress they are making with the European Championship seven months away.

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"You have to work through any difficulties you might have," Southgate told ITV. "The whole group have done that really well and I think we've come out of this stronger than we started it, quite frankly.

"We're further ahead in being more settled in the group and the way we want to play and players understanding our principles of play.

"There is really good competition and we wanted to learn a few things tonight, that we certainly did."

Harry Winks opened the scoring at Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri with his first international goal - a feat that was matched by second-half substitute Mason Mount, who scored in stoppage time.

Winks admitted England's defensive lapses allowed Kosovo to compete, while underlining his commitment to the team regardless of whether Southgate plays him in a deep-lying role or as an attacking midfielder.

"I like to be able to play both positions," Winks said on ITV. "I consider myself someone who can be in that pivot [position] and be in that eight if needed as well.

"There's always moments we need to improve on. It was the same in the Montenegro game, we gave away a few sloppy chances and we need to work on that because, come the Euros, we'll come up against stronger opposition than them and they might punish us."

Kane, whose strike took his tally to 12 goals in qualifying, echoed his Tottenham team-mate's comments, while reflecting upon England's strong finish to the game.

"We went through a few spells where they had a bit of pressure," he told ITV. "But we soaked it up and towards the end, when the spaces started to open up, it was clinical and 4-0 is a great result.

"We know we can improve. Tonight was difficult: the pitch was poor and it was hard to play, and there's always going to be little mistakes.

"When we play better teams we've got to make sure we're on it."

 

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