England wrapped up their impressive Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 4-0 rout of Kosovo on Sunday as maiden international goals from Harry Winks and Mason Mount ensured they will be among the top six seeds in next year’s tournament.
Gareth Southgate’s side booked their Euro 2020 berth by thrashing Montenegro 7-0 on Thursday and they finished a dominant run by dispatching Kosovo in Pristina thanks to goals from Winks, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Mount.
Although England weren’t at their best, it was a rewarding finale for the Group A winners, who clinched the high seeding that should help them avoid a tough group in the finals.
Winks’ maiden England goal, in his sixth appearance, was the key moment before second-half strikes from Kane and Rashford and Mount’s first international goal.
With all three of their Euro 2020 group games and the semi-finals and final being played at home for England, the 2018 World Cup semi-finalists will go into the November 30 draw as one of the main contenders for the trophy.
In contrast to the racist abuse that marred England’s qualifiers in Montenegro and Bulgaria, the gratitude still felt in Kosovo for the United Kingdom’s involvement in the country’s liberation, after the Kosovan war in the 1990s, was clear to see.
Before kick-off, the stadium announcer addressed the crowd with the words: “We always appreciate your support in the most difficult days. Twenty years on, we are here as equals. God bless you England.”
Kosovo supporters shouted the names of the England players and held up the flag of St George cards.
The loudest cheers were reserved for Sterling, who was back in the England team after the winger was dropped against Montenegro following his clash with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez in the canteen of England’s training base on Monday.
Sterling had England’s first sight of goal when he took Kane’s pass and made space for a stinging strike that drew a solid save from Arijanet Muric.
With footing on the Fadil Vokrri Stadium pitch proving difficult, England struggled to find their rhythm at times and Kosovo’s Milot Rashica took advantage to test Burnley keeper Nick Pope, who was making his first start.
Winks supplied the breakthrough in the 32nd minute when the Tottenham midfielder ran onto Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass, evaded the obligingly slow-to-react Kosovo defence and slotted home with ease.
Throughout a comfortable qualifying campaign, the main concern for Southgate has been England’s erratic defending and they were nearly exposed when Amir Rrahmani was left unmarked to head just wide early in the second half.
That shaky rearguard creaked again moments later as Rrahmani found himself in acres of space but headed woefully wide with the goal at his mercy.
England’s class told in the second half and Kane hit the post with a snap-shot from Sterling’s pass.
The same pair linked up for a milestone second goal in the 79th minute.
Sterling eased past his marker and sent in a deflected cross that England captain Kane finished off at the far post.
Kane has netted in all eight qualifiers and is the first England player for over 90 years to score 12 international goals in a calendar year.
It was also England’s 35th goal of the qualifying campaign, breaking their previous record total from the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
There was still time for Rashford to slot home from Sterling’s pass in the 83rd minute before Mount took Kane’s delivery and coolly finished in stoppage time.
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