England maintained their 100% record in Euro 2020 qualifying following a chaotic yet entertaining goal fest to beat Kosovo 5-3 at St Mary’s.
Having scored 14 goals in their three previous Group A matches, Gareth Southgate’s side produced another devastating attacking display to dismantle spirited opponents in Southampton.
England got off to a disastrous start however, gifting the visitors, ranked 120th in the world by FIFA, a shock lead inside 35 seconds following a comical defensive mix-up.
Ross Barkley’s casual pass put Michael Keane under pressure and the Everton man could only pass across his own goal to the quick-thinking Valon Berisha.
The striker found himself in space and confidently stroked the ball past Jordan Pickford to send the 1900 Kosovo fans who made the journey to south coast into delirium.
Barkley and Keane soon atoned for their error. The former’s corner on seven minutes found the latter whose header picked out Sterling to nod home from close range for his sixth goal of the qualifying campaign.
Another England forward in great goalscoring form is Harry Kane who picked up where he left off from his hat-trick against Bulgaria by firing England in front on 19 minutes.
A fine driving run from Sterling led the Manchester City attacker to feed his strike partner on the left hand side of the penalty area, and the captain made no mistake, slotting through the legs of the advancing Arijanet Muric.
Coming into the game, Kosovo were actually unbeaten in qualifying and actually topped the group briefly on Saturday after beating Czech Republic.
Undaunted after going behind, the Balkan side continued to push forward searching for an equaliser, and Mergim Vojvoda’s swerving long range effort almost caught out Pickford but only managed to hit the side netting.
They were made to pay as England almost immediately extended their lead when Jadon Sancho’s low cross was turned into his own net by the doubly unfortunate Vojvoda.
Sancho then went one better, scoring his first England goal after drilling home following another Sterling assist.
In a matter of minutes, the two were at it again with Sterling claiming his third assist of the night, finding Sancho to make it 5-1 before half time despite replays suggesting the Dortmund youngster was offside.
Despite the result seemingly in no doubt at this stage, the scoring was certainly far from over and three minutes into the second half Berisha narrowed the deficit curling his shot past Pickford after finding himself unmarked in the area.
Five minutes later it was 5-3 after Vedat Muriqi dusted himself down dispatch a penalty after being felled by Harry Maguire.
England were soon to have a penalty of their own but Harry Kane’s effort was kept out by Muric to the shock of everyone in attendance.
Sterling then hit the post as England looked to extend their lead and but the scoring was done for the evening with both sides contributing to a thrilling encounter.
England make it four wins from four in the group, with 19 goals scored and a three point advantage over the second placed Czechs.
Gareth Southgate will no doubt be pleased with the first half attacking display but will want to avoid similar defensive lapses against better opponents going forwards.