After falling behind after just 35 seconds to Valon Berisha, England responded emphatically, scoring five goals in the opening 45 minutes, however, two more defensive lapses allowed their plucky opponents a way back into the match.
The England manager praised his young team’s ability to recover after their slow start but conceded they must cut out the mistakes at the back.
“It was bizarre,” he said.
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“The outstanding features and the poor features are apparent to everybody. We made poor individual mistakes and a poor start to the game but showed good composure to recover from those mistakes. Our use of the ball in the first half was excellent.”
He added on Sky Sports News: “The game should really be finished at half-time, of course, but when teams start to lose leads then there’s a different feel about the stadium and the opposition have nothing to lose so can go for it, and we only have ourselves to blame for that. They were poor mistakes, not necessarily structural issues for us but poor individual errors and decisions.
“It put Kosovo back in the game and then at 5-3 we had some extended possession and really calmed the game down. There was a long passing move that led to the penalty, which was our chance to really put the game to bed. Unfortunately, we didn’t take that this time, but we managed to see the game out reasonably well from that point.”
It was a very Jekyll-and-Hyde-like performance from Southgate’s men who were at times scintillating going forward, especially in the period just before the break when Sterling and Jadon Sancho caused havoc as England netted three goals in quick succession.
‘Sterling one of best in the world’
Kosovo coach Bernard Challandes hailed Sterling as “one of the best in the world” following his performance while Sancho took his chance with open arms, netting his first international goals.
Southgate had high praise for them both.
He said: “The forward play was outstanding at times…Sterling’s performances have been of the highest level. He was almost unstoppable. His awareness of where defenders are and his ability to ride challenges, his vision and desire to get in on goal. I couldn’t speak highly enough of him.
Southgate added on Sancho: “We know we’ve got such great attacking talent. We were really pleased with Marcus [Rashford] at the weekend. Jadon is a slightly different type of player. He showed his balance and he showed his ability to beat people from a standing start. He works really hard for the team without the ball, which is important to the way we play, and he was rewarded with his first goals for England which is a special moment for him.”