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Cole Palmer scores debut goal as England Under-21s brush aside Kosovo

England U21 v Kosovo U21 – UEFA Euro U21 – Qualifying – Group G – stadiumMK
(Image credit: Bradley Collyer)

Cole Palmer’s classy strike helped inspire England Under-21s to a routine win over Kosovo.

The Young Lions opened their Euro 2023 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory in Milton Keynes thanks to Rhian Brewster’s penalty and Palmer’s debut goal.

Lee Carsley marked his first game in charge as the Under-21s extended their unbeaten run in qualifiers to 46 games, having not lost for 10 years.

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It was the first home crowd the Young Lions had played in front of in two years, having beaten Austria in front of 11,772, also at Stadium MK, in October 2019 and they took just 10 minutes of their Group G opener to lead.

Max Aarons picked out Brewster who nipped in ahead of goalkeeper Leo Besson and was taken out in the box.

The Sheffield United striker, who has scored just once since his £23.5million move from Liverpool a year ago, stepped up to bury the penalty and ease his barren spell.

Rhian Brewster put the hosts in front from the spot

Rhian Brewster put the hosts in front from the spot (Bradley Collyer/PA).

Kosovo, though, had looked composed before being caught cold and only brave defending from skipper Marc Guehi denied them a leveller after 22 minutes.

Kreshnik Krasniqi seized on sloppy play from the hosts and Joe Bursik saved his low drive from the edge of the area.

The ball popped up for Mark Marleku who seemed to have a simple task of nodding in, only for Guehi to stick out a leg and turn his header behind.

It proved a crucial intervention as the Young Lions doubled their lead and wrapped up the game four minutes later.

Conor Gallagher failed to get a clean connection on Luke Thomas’ cross, but Palmer picked up the pieces on the right.

Cole Palmer doubled the hosts' lead

Cole Palmer doubled the hosts’ lead (Bradley Collyer/PA).

Florian Hoxha thought he had held the Manchester City man up, only for the forward to brilliantly turn the defender, cut into the area and rife past Besson from an angle.

Noni Madueke should have made it 3-0 soon after but blazed over and Guehi headed Palmer’s corner wide.

England were comfortable, with PSV Eindhoven’s Madueke starting to terrorise the visitors, but they were forced to be patient despite a controlled second half.

Bursik had to be alert to save Diamant Berisha’s drive with 10 minutes left but the hosts, who travel to Slovenia and Andorra in October, were never in danger.