Victory in Viborg
Thursday, 24 March, 2011
Goals from Welbeck, Sinclair, Sturridge and Henderson beat Denmark.
By Jamie Bradbury in Viborg
VIDEOS: Denmark v England U21s Highlights - Daniel Sturridge post-match reaction
Goals from Danny Welbeck, Scott Sinclair, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson made it a comfortable night for the Under-21s as they hit Denmark for four in Viborg.
It was a satisfactory night for the Young Lions who lost captain Micah Richards early on, but bounced back to brush aside the challenge from the summer’s European Championship hosts. Welbeck was on target to put Stuart Pearce’s side in the lead by half time, then the impressive Sturridge was instrumental as he, Sinclair and Henderson all bagged in the second half.
When England meet Czech Republic back here on 19 June in their final Group B game it could be a match that decides their fate at Euro 2011. Today, it was more about preparing for the Finals, as Pearce was able to see 18 players in action after four days on the training pitch.
But the game started badly for the Three Lions as Richards, playing his first game for the Under-21s since March 2010, pulled up with a hamstring problem. The Manchester City defender burst forward on a powerful run, but collapsed to the floor clutching his leg.
It was game over for the 22-year-old and the armband was passed to Manchester United’s Chris Smalling. In came West Ham United’s James Tomkins for his first appearance since the 6-3 win over Macedonia in October 2009.
Both sides went on the attack, with defences being stretched. England, as ever, went forward in numbers with Tom Cleverley and Sinclair supporting Welbeck and Sturridge from wide. Henderson in midfield was providing the ammunition.
But it was the home side who threatened first. Alex McCarthy had already been called into action early when Nicki Nielsen got in behind Smalling and Kyle Naughton at right-back to shoot from a tight angle, but his toe-poke went over.
Anders Christiansen also came close to scoring. His positive run into the England box ended when he rounded McCarthy on his first start in goal, but Naughton was on the line to block.
England, though, had more to offer going forward and as Sturridge showed the form that has seen him bag four goals in six appearances for Bolton since his loan move from Chelsea, Welbeck was causing problems with his physical presence.
And the Sunderland man almost found a way through when his club-mate Henderson clipped one into the box after linking up well with Cleverley on the right. The effort was from a narrow angle, though, and failed to trouble Jonas Lossi in goal.
But his next sight of goal on 23 minutes was emphatically finished. After a poor headed clearance of Tomkins' high pass into the area by Michael Lumb, the ball fell kindly to the striker and a left-footed half volley into the top corner of the net gave Lossi little chance.
The game could have ended differently had Jorgensen’s effort just after the break been allowed. He sneaked in behind Naughton before tucking away into the corner of the net, but the linesman’s flag was already up.
It was a tight call, but one England were happy with and less than ten minutes later they had extended their lead.
Sturridge was the provider, and was perhaps unlucky not to see his left-foot curler find the back of the net. Lossi was down well, but could only parry into the path of Sinclair who side-footed in from close range.
England’s pace in numbers going forward was now asking serious questions and four minutes later Sturridge had his reward for a great night’s work. Working the space for himself to shoot inside the area, he wrong-footed the keeper with a low right foot effort.
Henderson then added his name on the score sheet with 18 minutes remain, sealing a comfortable win for Pearce’s men.
The Black Cats midfielder broke free on the right, holding off the challenge from Lumb, and finished well for England's fourth.
McCarthy hadn’t much to do all night, but when Jorgensen broke into the box, the big Reading stopper was down well to claim at the feet of the Bayer Leverkusen forward. That was their last chance to register on the night, but it slipped them by.
If England win their group and Denmark finish runners-up in group A, the two teams will meet back here on 22 June. It’s unlikely to be as straight forward as that though.