England will be among the top seeds at next summer’s European Championships after a late flurry of goals secured a 4-0 victory against Kosovo in their final European Qualifier at the Fadil Vokrri Stadium.
Having secured qualification to Euro 2020 with a 7-0 win against Montenegro at Wembley on Thursday, Gareth Southgate made several changes to his side and they took the lead in the 32nd minute through Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks.
However, England struggled for long periods against a spirited Kosovo side but they capped an unconvincing display with a late flurry of goals as Harry Kane (79) and substitutes Marcus Rashford (83) and Mason Mount (90+1) made sure the Three Lions end 2019 on a high.
Victory confirms England, who finish a record-breaking qualification campaign six points clear at the top of Group A, will be one of six top seeds as attention now turns to the Euro 2020 finals draw on November 30.
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Kosovo’s focus will be on March’s Euro 2020 play-offs, for which they qualified through the Nations League.
How England finished 2019 on a high
After trips to Montenegro and Bulgaria earlier in Group A were tarnished by racist chanting aimed at England’s black players, Southgate’s side were given a warm welcome at the Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri.
All of the players had their names cheered as the line-ups were announced before kick-off, with Raheem Sterling in particular getting an excellent reception, before the home fans held up cards picturing the cross of Saint George during God Save The Queen.
Kosovo came out on the front foot, but they could not match their 34-second opening goal in the reverse fixture at St Mary’s as Florent Hadergjonaj hit a tame shot at Nick Pope, who was making his first start for England.
Minutes later, an Atdhe Nuhiu header forced the first telling save out of Pope, who palmed the effort into the ground before collecting comfortably.
Sterling came closest for England with 15 minutes gone, firing a low effort goalwards after being teed up by captain Harry Kane, only to see Arijanet Muric push his strike around the post.
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s first sight of goal saw him draw another save out of Muric before Kane had a shot blocked by two defenders, but neither side was able to create a clear sight of goal as the game passed the half-hour mark.
That changed shortly afterwards as Winks was on hand to open the scoring with his first England goal. The Spurs star showed great composure to control a pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and tuck away his chance to put the visitors ahead at the break.
After the interval Kosovo again started brightly as Amir Rrahmani went close to an equaliser on two occasions. His glancing header from a Valon Berisha shot flew just wide of the far post before the Kosovo captain steered a free header wide from eight yards.
Kane then rattled the post as the ball fell to the skipper inside the box with England pushing for a second to lessen the chances of a comeback from a spirited home side.
England eventually added to their lead late on as Kane made sure he scored in all eight Group A qualifiers, finishing at the far post after being picked out by Sterling.
Sterling then played in Rashford, who slotted home a third with seven minutes remaining before Mount wrapped up the game, and England’s place as one of six top seeds at Euro 2020, by adding the fourth in stoppage time to grab his first England goal.
Next on Gareth Southgate’s agenda is the draw for the Euro 2020 finals, which takes place in Bucharest, Romania on November 31 at 5am AEDT.
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.