SOUTHAMPTON, England — England recovered from conceding a goal after 35 seconds to score five times in the first half in a wild 5-3 win over Kosovo on Tuesday, maintaining the team’s perfect start to qualifying for next year’s European Championship.
Jadon Sancho scored twice in two minutes — the 19-year-old winger’s first goals at senior international level — to cap an England comeback that also featured goals for Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. There was also an own-goal, while Kane missed a penalty in the second half.
Kosovo’s commitment to attack left the team wide open at the back but threatening going forward, making for an end-to-end match at St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton on a rare occasion England wasn’t playing a home international at Wembley Stadium.
Valon Berisha took advantage of a careless pass from England defender Michael Keane to put Kosovo ahead inside the first minute, and also scored at the start of the second half with a curling effort into the top corner in the 49th.
When Vedat Muriqi converted a 55th-minute penalty, after the forward himself was tripped by England defender Harry Maguire, there was an outside chance that Kosovo — only accepted as a member of UEFA and FIFA in 2016 — was going to keep alive its unbeaten 15-match run stretching back two years.
Yet, England didn’t concede again, and could even afford to fail from the penalty spot when Kane’s attempt was saved by goalkeeper Arijanet Muric. Sterling also struck a shot against the post in the second half.
England has won all four of its games in Group A, scoring 19 goals, and still hasn’t lost a qualifier for either the World Cup or European Championship in 10 years. It is the first time since 1960 that England has scored five goals in three different matches in a calendar year.
England coach Gareth Southgate praised the "devastating attacking display" from his team — Sancho might have done enough to take one of the spots in the three-man attack off Marcus Rashford — but was clearly unhappy with the defending, with mistakes leading to all of Kosovo’s goal.
"The outstanding play was obvious," Southgate said, "and the errors were obvious."
A chaotic game got off to a chaotic start when Keane gave a square ball straight to Muriqi, who played in Berisha to clip a finish over goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Keane made amends by winning a header at a corner to set up Sterling, who nodded home the equalizer from close range in the eighth.
Sterling set up goals for Kane and Sancho either side of Kosovo defender Mergim Vojvoda comically turning the ball into his own net for 3-1.
Sancho got his second goal — and Sterling his third assist — in first-half stoppage time as England bettered the four goals scored against Bulgaria on Saturday.
Kosovo won the second half 2-0, however, a reminder of the flaws that still exist in an England team that reached the World Cup semifinals last year and the final four of the Nations League this year.
"It was a crazy game," Sancho said. "I’m just delighted to get my first goals for England."