Match report and highlights as England toil to goalless draw with Denmark in Copenhagen
Wednesday 9 September 2020 06:31, UK
An experimental England laboured to a 0-0 draw with Denmark in a turgid UEFA Nations League affair at Telia Parken that preserves their unbeaten start.
The Danes were the more threatening side as Christian Eriksen, Yussuf Poulsen, Martin Braithwaite and Kasper Dolberg all went close to snatching a noteworthy win for the hosts.
Harry Kane went close on a couple of occasions - seeing his stoppage-time shot dramatically cleared off the line - but Gareth Southgate's team looked short on ideas and match sharpness as the points were shared.
The result leaves England second in League A2, two points behind leaders Belgium after they thrashed Iceland 5-1 while Denmark sit third after collecting their first point of this year's competition.
Denmark: Schmeichel (6), Wass (6), Jorgensen (7), Christensen (6), Skov (6), Norgaard (6), Eriksen (7), Delaney (7), Poulsen (7), Dolberg (6), Braithwaite (6).
Subs: Kjaer (n/a), Jensen (n/a), Hojbjerg (6).
England: Pickford (7), Alexander-Arnold (6), Gomez (6), Coady (7), Dier (6), Trippier (6), Phillips (5), Rice (5), Sterling (5), Sancho (5), Kane (5).
Subs: Maitland-Niles (n/a), Grealish (6), Mount (6).
Man of the match: Conor Coady.
In a contest that had been overshadowed by Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood being sent home from international duty following a breach of Covid-19 protocols, England were tentative for large parts and failed to function as a cohesive unit in Copenhagen.
Southgate underlined prior to kick-off that his side had "total focus" on the job in hand from the moment they departed their hotel in Iceland, and even suggested the saga had brought the squad closer together.
Denmark had faded and were unable to land a meaningful glove on Belgium at the weekend while Southgate was encouraged by how his side grew into a cagey contest with Iceland - but England struggled to get their passing game going in their new 3-4-3 shape.
Eriksen, who impressed when England beat Denmark over nine years ago, blazed a free-kick over Jordan Pickford's crossbar while Dolberg fizzed a shot over after another England attack broke down after 18 minutes.
The hosts were looking threatening as Daniel Wass' cross then caught Poulsen on his toes and England continued their sluggish start when Braithwaite intercepted Conor Coady's headed clearance, glided away from the other debutant Kalvin Phillips and cracked a left-footed strike a yard wide of Pickford's post at the half-hour mark.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg dropped out for Denmark, who made two changes from the team that was beaten by Belgium. Brentford's Christian Norgaard replaced the Tottenham midfielder while Mathias Jorgensen came into the defence.
Jordan Pickford retained his place behind a back three with Trent Alexander-Arnold returning on the right. Kalvin Phillips and Conor Coady started their first England games while Eric Dier made only his second start at centre-back.
Denmark were growing in confidence with England lacking a ball-player in midfield and they were grateful to Pickford for a fine save at his near post to deny Dolberg after a brilliant turn from Eriksen to lose his former Tottenham team-mate Eric Dier as the interval afforded Southgate the chance to alter a disjointed system.
There was no travelling band to liven up an England side that had barely strung four passes together in the opening period and had mustered just one off-target shot and four touches in the opposition box.
"The big problem is the left side with two right-footed players there," Jamie Carragher said at the break.
England were also being stifled by a one-dimensional central midfield as Southgate introduced Mason Mount for the ineffectual Jadon Sancho after an hour in search of greater mobility between the lines.
Within nine minutes, Mount was involved in England's best chance as he chased a lost cause to set up Kieran Trippier's deep cross, which Kane headed over. The visitors were building momentum when Southgate summoned Jack Grealish from the bench, but Denmark nearly profited from the additional space when Eriksen skied Poulsen's header back across goal.
England had their very best moment in the dying seconds as indecision from Kasper Schmeichel allowed Kane to round the Leicester goalkeeper but his goal-bound effort was cleared off the line by Mathias Jorgensen.
England boss Gareth Southgate: "We have learned a lot. We tried a new system which we will get better at given everything we have had to deal with - 10 pull-outs for various reasons.
"So we felt we wanted to start with stability - we could have probably been a bit higher with our attacking threat in the first-half but we were in control and given the stage of the season the players are at, that was really important.
"It wasn't a game where we were going to be able to press high for 90 minutes so physically that had a bearing on the formation we played as well.
"Second-half we started to accelerate the game with some of the changes where we felt we were in control. Putting Mason [Mount] into midfield made us more forward-thinking and Jack [Grealish] did the same.
"Ainsley [Maitland-Niles] I thought did really well so I was very pleased with the players who made their debuts, I thought Conor Coady was excellent and Eric Dier has had two excellent games at centre-back for us so the back three today was very solid."
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher:
"England played a system tonight that is creeping into the Premier League - a 3-4-3 which we've seen at Wolves and Arsenal. Whatever system you see nowadays, there's no No 10.
"England could have players like Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley. It's a position that has now become defunct. Grealish and Mason Mount both came on and played wide.
"As a result, England were a little bit laboured tonight and a little bit too solid, I'd say."
England kept a clean sheet for a fifth successive competitive match for the first time since another run of five ending in March 2017 - and that was largely thanks to the assured debut of Coady, who became the first Wolves player to start for England since Steve Bull in 1990.
The centre-back's display was among the few positives on show, with his vocal presence and raking balls for Trent Alexander-Arnold a constant avenue through which England sought to turn defence into attack.
Coady told Sky Sports: "I feel an immense pride to play for my country. It's a clean sheet and as a defender, I'm happy with that but we're disappointed not to go away with a win. It's an incredible feeling to see your name on the team-sheet and then to play."
The September double-header has been an audition for many ahead of next summer's European Championships and Coady did his case no harm.
England host Wales in an international friendly on October 8 at 8pm before taking on Belgium at Wembley in the Nations League on October 11 (kick-off is at 5pm).
Gareth Southgate's men then host Denmark at 7.45pm on Wednesday October 14. The Danes will face the Faroe Islands on October 7 in a friendly and Iceland in the Nations League on October 11 before their trip to London.