England’s leaky defence proves Southgate’s men must rely on ruthless strike force in Euros

After the Bulgaria win, Gareth Southgate claimed his attacking force was unrivalled in the game and goodness knows it needs to be.

Because right now, England’s defence looks so full of blunders that the Three Lions are going to need all the goal they can get to compensate.

England will certainly face more wily opponents than a team which was only recognised by FIFA four years ago.

But on the plus side, Wile E Coyote and a whole wagon-load of A.C.M.E dynamite could not have stopped Raheem Sterling in his tracks. Neep, neep!

It was almost cartoon-like, the way he turned the Kosovo captain Amir Rrahmani in the centre-circle and headed for goal in a puff of dust in the 19th minute.

The ball to Harry Kane was measured perfectly and the England captain did what he does best, set himself up to drill the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs and into the net for the home side’s second goal of the night.

It was Sterling himself who had initially got the England’s goal-chase underway.

Michael Keane, whose awful pass had gifted Valon Berisha a well-taken opener after just 35 seconds, made amends with a strong header across the goal from a corner and Sterling was in the perfect place to nod in an equaliser from close range.

England’s leaky defence nearly cost them

England’s leaky defence nearly cost them (Image: GETTY)

England ace Michael Keane's error could have been costly

England ace Michael Keane’s error could have been costly (Image: GETTY)

The third goal was booed by the Kosovo fans but showed that England finally have a bit of steel.

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After coming off second best in his attempt to tackle Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fidan Aliti lay writhing on the ground.

In the past, England might have meekly put the ball out of play and tutted at foreign teams and their histrionics.

Instead, Kane fed the ball down the line to Sancho who drilled a low cross which hit the ankles of Vojvoda and bounced into his own net.

Again, as if in a cartoon, Aliti jumped to his feet to add to vehement protests led by manager Bernard Challandes, before remembering himself and collapsing to the floor again. Challandes was booked.

It started a run of three goals in seven minutes.

Sterling’s pace was again the unstoppable element as he sprinted down the left, played another sumptuous pass, this time diagonally to Sancho, and the 19-year-old coolly drew the defender and goalkeeper and slid the ball between them.

There was even time for another before the break, Sterling again the creator as he burst to the line to tee up Sancho with a rather less tidy second.

And then the second half began.

This time it was Declan Rice conceding the ball cheaply, enabling Vedat Muriqi to clip the ball far too easily over Jordan Henderson’s head and Berisha brought it down to beat Jordan Pickford for his second of the night.

Soon, the world’s most expensive defender Harry Maguire joined the list of England sinners – failing to clear the ball and upending Vedat Muriqi as he went for a second stab.

Muriqi made no mistake from the spot, which is more than could be said for Kane in the 65th minute.

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Ross Barkley had cleverly won a somewhat cheap award but though Kane hit his shot low and hard, Arijanet Muric of Nottingham Forest got down well to smother it.

England will struggle to keep better teams out

England will struggle to keep better teams out (Image: GETTY)

Sterling hit the post and then had a shot deflected wide – nothing was going right for England, flaming Kosovo’s belief there was still something for them in this game.

Marcus Rashford replaced Sancho to reunite the three that undid Bulgaria, and within seconds nearly made a statement of his own only for his shot to be saved after a penetrating run.

In the end, Kosovo may have discovered a new-found resistance to this great strike force, but there was no stopping the passing of time.

For England, instead of euphoria at another five-goal haul, the final whistle brought more than a little relief.



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