England beat spirited Kosovo in eight-goal thriller
England's march towards the Euro 2020 finals continued as they beat a Kosovo side 5-3 in an extraordinary Group A qualifier at St Mary's Stadium.
Valon Berisha gave 120th-ranked Kosovo the lead after 35 seconds but England hit back seven minutes later through Raheem Sterling's header and the rampant hosts led 5-1 at the interval with a double for teenager Jadon Sancho.
Kosovo, surprisingly second in the group just a point behind England at kickoff, were not about to depart the biggest night in their short footballing history quietly though and exposed worrying weaknesses in England's defence.
Within 10 minutes of the restart they had scored twice through Berisha and a penalty by Vedat Muriqi, rattling England and leaving manager Gareth Southgate frowning.
Harry Kane, who scored England's second goal, had a penalty saved by Arijanet Muric and Sterling then hit the post but Kosovo were still going forward until the final whistle and Bersant Celina went close to making it 5-4.
England, who conceded three at home for the first time since 2012, lead the group with a maximum 12 points having scored 19 goals in the process. Kosovo dropped to third with eight points, one behind the Czech Republic who beat Montenegro 3-0 away.
Despite their defeat Kosovo, who had been on a 15-match unbeaten run, will still believe they can qualify for their first tournament finals, just four years after gaining international status from world soccer's governing body FIFA.
Southgate had warned beforehand of Kosovo's threat and it took only 35 seconds to materialise, albeit from a dreadful mistake by England defender Michael Keane.
Without looking, he played a casual pass across his area and the gift was accepted by Muriqi who intercepted and played in Berisha to clip a fine finish past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
That lit the touchpaper for a stunning opening half in which England's attacking play was devastating.Published: by Radio NewsHub