Played at Southampton’s St Marys Stadium, the hosts produced a clinical counter-attacking display on an evening that will see questions raised about their defensive capabilities as Kosovo – in only their tenth match as a FIFA-affiliated nation – claimed three deserved goals.
Going forward, however, England have no issue. In Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane they have two live wires with enough class to end decades of hurt and in Jadon Sancho they have a third musketeer with the potential to join them.
All three forwards made the scoreline – Sancho twice – and Marim Vojvoda scored an owl goal as the Eastern European defenders nursed shell shock in England’s five-goal first-half.
All this after England dipped themselves in hot water after 35 seconds when former Wednesday loanee Ross Barkley delivered a high-pressure ball into the feet of the below-par Michael Keane. His panicked pass allowed the lively Valon Berisha the opportunity to score the first of his brace and England were behind.
The swagger of England sides gone by would have been knee-capped by such a shock, but this one – of World Cup semi-final fame no less – is made of sterner stuff. It is over ten years since the Three Lions tasted defeat in a qualifying match and despite a creaking defence, they never looked in any danger of cutting that record short.
This was only because of their enterprise going forward though and back at the ranch Mosborough-born Harry Maguire gave away a penalty on 53 minutes.
Though not a vintage display from the world’s most expensive defender, he was otherwise the more composed of the England centre-halves on a night to forget for Everton’s Michael Keane. One has to wonder how the pair would have handled ten minutes or so of the physicality of the six-foot-six Nuhiu.
That spot kick was dispatched by Vedat Muriqi to make the score 5-3 and all of a sudden, Gareth Southgate’s men found themselves with a game to close out. That they did, dropping deeper and relying more on that blistering counter.
Kane missed a penalty earned by the promising Barkley and Sterling hit the post midway through the second period.
While the Kosovans had registered their disappointment at the entertaining fixture not having been held at Wembley, the Southampton public would have felt the opposite.
Job done, the England juggernaut keeps on rolling with qualification for Euro 2020 a near-certainty. It’s up to Gareth Southgate and Harry Maguire to shore up their defence to the extent a roll towards major honours picks up pace.