Villa pair guide Lions to victory
Wednesday, 09 February, 2011
Goals from Darren Bent and Ashley Young secure 2-1 win in Denmark.
by Nicholas Veevers in Copenhagen
England got 2011 off to a winning start in Copenhagen, putting in a competent and impressive performance to see off Denmark and head into next month's European Championship qualifier with Wales in good spirit.
Goals from Aston Villa duo Darren Bent and Ashley Young proved the difference after falling behind to an early goal from Denmark but it was England's controlling display in the second half which will please Manager Fabio Capello the most.
The Three Lions retained possession well and could even have added to their goal tally, but after the disappointment of their last game with France in November, a win was the main objective here and that was exactly what they achieved.
England came so close to taking the lead too, after a bright start to the game with Jack Wilshere looking at home in a deep lying midfield role, as Bent broke clear of the defence, only for Thomas Sorensen to thwart him with a timely block on the edge of the area. The ball ran loose to Wayne Rooney, who bided his time before placing a shot at goal. Fortunately for the home side, Mathias Jorgensen was well placed in the six yard box to block what would have been a certain goal.
However, within moments, England had fallen behind. Denmark won their first corner of the game and when it was only half cleared, Christian Eriksen whipped it straight back into the box for Daniel Agger to rise highest and head past Joe Hart.
England responded in the best way possible though and were back level in the tenth minute. Theo Walcott was the architect, as he worked a bit of space for himself on the right and sidestepped Simon Busk Poulsen. He then drilled a delightful low cross into the centre, giving Bent the simple task of tapping home from close range.
The Three Lions could have been ahead ten minutes later too when James Milner, having swapped flanks with Walcott, flashed a ball across the area which Bent was inches away from converting in the six yard box.
The game had certainly settled down and it was Denmark who came closest to getting their noses back in front again in the 33rd minute when the lively Ajax man Eriksen turned well on the edge of the box before seeing his crisp left-footer flash past Hart only to hit the outside of the post.
Hart then had to be at his sharpest to save Dennis Rommedahl's angled shot, after he'd skipped past Ashley Cole on the right.
With five minutes to go before the break, England thought they'd edged ahead when a good move saw Rooney pick Walcott out on the right. His cross was spot on again, this time for Frank Lampard to flick home but the captain had just strayed offside and the goal was ruled out.
Agger then had a good chance to grab his second of the night, when Eriksen's pacy free-kick from the right was there to be nodded home but the Liverpool man wasn't quite on the spot and the teams went in all level at the break.
England made three changes at the break, with Scott Parker, Gareth Barry and Young all introduced in place of Lampard, Rooney and Wilshere whilst retaining a similar shape to that employed in the first half.
It didn't take Young too long to get involved either, as his chipped cross in the 51st minute almost picked out Bent at the far post until Sorensen smothered. Young then forced Sorensen into another save as he glanced a header goalwards from Milner's cross.
England kept pressing and Bent saw a shot go just wide soon after before Young's cross from the right seconds before the hour mark had Sorensen scrambling across his goal-line before substitute Daniel Wass cleared the danger.
And it was Young who put the Lions ahead in the 68th minute. Glen Johnson made a marauding run down the right, skipping past one man before slipping a pass into the path of Young. He always looked in control from there and confidently placed a shot into the bottom corner past Sorensen.
Young could even have had another in the dying minutes when Villa team-mate Stewart Downing broke from his own half and deep into Danish territory. His cut-back found its way to Young, but his shot was blocked by Agger.
It wasn't to matter in the end though, as England finished the game comfortably and can take heart from their performance and the result into next month.