Kosovo 0-4 England: Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Marcus Rashford and Mason Mount score as campaign ends with a win
Harry Winks and Mason Mount scored their first international goals as England beat Kosovo 4-0 to round off their Euro 2020 qualification campaign and ensure they are among the top seeds at next summer’s finals.
Gareth Southgate’s side were sloppy in possession at times but ultimately their superior individual quality shone through as Winks opened the scoring on 32 minutes before three goals in the final 11 minutes gave the visitors a somewhat flattering margin of victory.
Gareth Southgate’s side had already booked their place at the finals and avoided falling victim to any mathematical complications regarding tournament seeding courtesy of a win which had looked in doubt until captain Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Mount struck late on.
Nevertheless, England kept a clean sheet and finished Group A with seven wins from eight matches, signing off for 2019 with another wide-margin success.
Pristina city centre was adorned with flags of St George and banners bearing poppies declaring ‘Welcome and Respect”, a sentiment reflected inside the Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri when home fans cheered each England player read out over the loudspeakers prior to kick-off.
The St George’s flag was prominent again during ‘God Save The Queen’ when locals held up white cards with a red cross, flipped over during the Kosovo anthem to their own colours – a further sign of solidarity reflecting gratitude for England’s support in the NATO-led force which helped keep peace here in 1999 after air strikes ended Kosovo’s war with Serbia.
Southgate was aware of the historic importance this fixture had to the locals but also wary of the threat they posed in September, when England won 5-3 but were left shaken by defensive weaknesses that cast doubt over their ability to thrive at next summer’s finals.
Perhaps mindful of that, Southgate drafted in Declan Rice to play at the base of a midfield three with Winks to the left and Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right with Callum Hudson-Odoi making his second start in a front three alongside captain Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, restored to the starting line-up after his fracas with Joe Gomez at St George’s Park.
Tyrone Mings started in defence but it was goalkeeper Nick Pope, on his full debut, who was called into meaningful action first as Sheffield Wednesday striker Atdhe Nuhiu headed goalwards seven minutes in.
Pope kept the ball out with a degree of comfort but England were slow into stride, aside from Kane feeding Sterling for a shot Arijanet Muric beat away in the Kosovan goal.
Kosovo were unable to make promising spells of possession count and England took the lead just after the half-hour mark.
Rice fed Harry Kane, who in turn found Oxlade-Chamberlain in a central position around 40 yards out. Winks collected Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass and whether by luck or judgement, his first touch took him past a hapless Ibrahim Dresevic and suddenly clear on goal, slotting a low shot coolly into the corner.
Kosovo started the second half on the front foot in search of an equaliser. Amir Rrahmani should have done better when evading Mings to meet Valon Berisha’s corner but he couldn’t hit the target.
Rashford replaced Hudson-Odoi in the 59th minute and suddenly England became a threat again, Ben Chilwell forcing Muric into a smart save before Kane struck an upright with the rebound.
England doubled their advantage with 11 minutes left as Rice fed Sterling, whose cross deflected off Fidan Aliti to Kane, who steered a shot firmly past Muric.
Rashford then completed a flowing move, playing a one-two with Sterling before a superb first-time finish, stroked right-footed into the far corner.
As Kosovo notably tired, there was still time for England to add a fourth as Kane pounced on a defensive error to feed Mount, introduced earlier as a substitute for Oxlade-Chamberlain, for a simple finish.