England’s performance against Kosovo was enough to win in the Fadil Vokrri Stadium in Pristina, but it was hardly a classic Three Lions performance as the spirited home side came out to demonstrate their clear abilities on the ball.
As expected, given their relentless attacking style against England in Southampton earlier this season, Kosovo came out attacking from the first whistle.
Head coach Bernard Challandes had sung England’s praises again before kick off, but he was also once again clear to suggest his side wouldn’t be scared to attack and create opportunities against their star-studded opposition.
That proved just the case in the first half, too. In possession of the ball, Kosovo demonstrated their abilities and kept an unusually high amount of possession against a slow and lethargic England side.
Defensively, the gaps were still there that had been seen at St. Mary’s but there is real potency in the Kosovo attack. It was probably one of the main factors in Kosovo maintaining an unblemished competitive record on home soil up until this fixture.
Challandes’ men created a number of chances early in the game, keen to make a statement in what was a historic match for Kosovo.
Throughout the run-up to the game, the Kosovo fans were keen to express their support and welcome to England, both celebrating having Premier League stars on Kosovo soil and acknowledging Britain’s role in Kosovo’s post-war independence.
On the field, there was an element of disappointment that this match ultimately meant nothing, as England had already qualified for EURO 2020 and Kosovo’s defeat to the Czech Republic ruled out their qualification.
The breakthrough came for England in the 32nd minute, as Harry Winks burst through the centre of the penalty box and slotted home past Manchester City goalkeeper Arijanet Muric, who is on loan at Nottingham Forest this season, in the one-on-one.
The second half, despite some real nervousness from the Three Lions defensively, saw England stretch their lead through Harry Kane with just over 10 minutes to go courtesy of a cruel defensive sliced clearance. Substitute Marcus Rashford then slotted home and Mason Mount wrapped up the win after a Kosovo mistake.
Kane also smacked an effort against the upright earlier in the half. Milot Rashica created a great chance for Kosovo, but was crowded out at the last moment.
However, despite the defeat, this was still Kosovo’s night to remember. They put in an admirable display and made Gareth Southgate’s England look decidedly average.