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England 5 Kosovo 3: reactions and highlights from the eight-goal thriller at St Mary’s

Three Lions boss Gareth

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate slams ‘ridiculous’ defensive mistakes

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 8:43am
England 5 Kosovo 3 
Euro 2020 qualifying group A 

Gareth Southgate savaged his players for their “crazy” mistakes despite the fact England put five goals past Kosovo to move closer to Euro 2020 qualification.

See related 
Today’s back pages: England are ‘Kosmic’ in attack, terrible in defence

The Three Lions now top group A with 12 points from four matches, three more than the Czech Republic, who lie second after their 3-0 win over Montenegro.

But despite that healthy position, Southgate knows that England have no chance of winning next summer’s championships should they defend in the slipshod way they did at St Mary’s last night.

The Southampton crowd were still taking their seats when Kosovo went one up, Valon Berisha seizing on a blunder by Michael Keane to give the visitors a dream start after just 34 seconds. 

A nightmare then unfolded for the Kosovans, who came into the game on the back of a 14-match unbeaten run, as England scored five goals in a rollercoaster first half.

Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, an own goal from Mergim Vojvoda and two from teenager Jadon Sancho finished the match as a meaningful contest at half-time.

Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling celebrate England’s fifth goal against Kosovo

That, at least, is what the England fans assumed. But more mistakes from the Three Lions, first from Declan Rice and then Harry Maguire, gifted Kosovo two quick goals to reduce the deficit to 5-3. 

England should have extended their lead when Ross Barkley was brought down in the penalty area, but Kane fluffed his spot kick (ending a run of 23 successful penalties) and Sterling - dangerous throughout - then saw his strike brilliantly saved by Arijanet Muric in the visitors’s goal.

“Ridiculous mistakes, poor decisions, lack of covering back, so we made the game really uncomfortable for ourselves,” was how Southgate assessed his side’s defensive performance.

“Whether it was the intensity of the game, whether it was the pressure, I don’t know. We’ve got to reflect on that but they were such basic errors, really, that you have to learn from. We’d just made some crazy errors.”

As for the plus points, the England manager picked out the offensive threats created by Sterling, Sancho and Kane. 

“Raheem’s two performances [including Bulgaria on Saturday] have been of the highest level,” said Southgate. “He’s been almost unstoppable. I couldn’t speak highly enough of the way he played.”

Euro 2020 qualifying: group A standings

Reactions to the eight-goal thriller 

Raheem Sterling: “It was one of my best England performances in the first half. We gave away sloppy goals at the end. In the big tournaments against better teams we can’t be giving them any opportunities.”

The Sun: “The Fast Show in attack, the Muppet Show at the back.”

Sky Sports: “It was a very Jekyll-and-Hyde-like performance from Southgate’s men who were at times scintillating going forward.”

The Guardian: “It was difficult to remember the last time England’s defence appeared so accident-prone.”

The Daily Telegraph: “England can be contenders for the finals next summer… but only if, and a big if, Southgate can cut out the errors behind them.”

Today’s back pages

England are ‘Kosmic’ in attack, terrible in defence

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England football team England Football Euro 2020

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