Jose Mourinho will not have liked this one little bit, and he won’t have been alone.
Harry Kane, on for 90 minutes, will have angered the Tottenham manager. Jack Grealish, off for the same amount of time, might have done it for the rest of the country. There was also a red card for Harry Maguire, pandemonium around Jordan Pickford and a defeat that makes it very difficult for England to return to the UEFA Nations League finals. Yet it was the absence of flair in an England team we fondly imagine is overrun with it, that will have most disappointed.
When Grealish excelled against Wales at Wembley last week most thought he would at least have a role to play in the competitive internationals. Yet in a game in which, down to ten men after 31 minutes, England needed a ball carrier, a forward who could run at opponents, beat a man, perhaps draw a foul, he sat unloved among the unused substitutes.
Christian Eriksen coolly dispatched from the penalty spot to give the visitors the lead against 10-men England
Harry Maguire was shown a red card shortly after the half hour mark after picking up his second yellow for a follow through
A superb reflex save from Kasper Schmeichel denied Mason Mount from scoring an equaliser for England in the second half
Like for like replacements abounded instead. Jordan Henderson for Declan Rice; Dominic Calvert-Lewin for Marcus Rashford; a small exception with Jadon Sancho for Mason Mount. Yet Grealish is one of the men in form at the start of this season. Aston Villa are flying and so is he. What was there to lose, in a game in which England already trailed?
England: Pickford, James, Coady, Maguire, Maitland-Niles (Mings 36), Walker, Rice (J Henderson 75), Phillips, Mount (Sancho 73), Rashford (Calvert-Lewin 72), Kane;
Subs not used: Pope, Saka, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Ward-Prowse, Grealish, Ings, D Henderson
Booked: Maguire, Henderson, Phillips
Sent off: Maguire (31)
Denmark: Schmeichel, Wass, Kjaer, Christensen (Jorgensen 46), Skov (Maehle 46), Delaney, Hojbjerg (Jensen 87), Poulsen, Eriksen, Braithwaite (Vestergaard 73), Dolberg (Sisto 37);
Subs not used: Billing, Dalsgaard, Gytkjaer, Lossl, Wind, Hansen
Booked: Christensen, Hojbjerg
Scorers: Eriksen (35)
So this was disappointing, as it must have been for Mourinho to see Kane still captaining when the final whistle blew, still taking the odd kick, and largely struggling to make an impact on the game. Gareth Southgate insisted the player was not injured – and had the scans to prove it – but Mourinho had asked for Kane to be treated with consideration and not overused; a full shift here was probably not what he had in mind.
Kudos to Southgate for being his own man. Some previous England managers might have caved under club pressure. At the same time, there is invariably payback after spats like this – although the first may be verbal. We will discover if actions follow words, the next time an England squad is named.
All in all then, a difficult night for Southgate and England. Reece James was the best of it, forcing a brilliant save from Kasper Schmeichel with a late free-kick, but problems remain, and for some key players too. The 2018 World Cup seems a very long time ago for its breakout star Harry Maguire.
The sad reality for Harry Maguire these days is that his name appears far too often in sentences that contain the word shambles. Manchester United defensive shambles; England defensive shambles. And there is Maguire, the most expensive defender in the world, increasingly hapless, architect of his downfall. Bouncing onto international duty on the back of a 6-1 home defeat for Manchester United by Tottenham, Maguire was sent off here after 31 minutes in what swiftly became three minutes of calamity for England.
He didn’t start well, either, booked after just five minutes for a nasty tackle on Denmark’s Yussuf Poulsen. Maguire dived in and caught Poulsen late and high, quite a savage misjudgement. It was arguably more than a yellow, but just less than a red. Deep orange. Unable to produce a card of the right colour, referee Jesus Gil Manzano opted for a booking. So it was foolishness in the extreme later in the half when Maguire tried to correct a mistake by diving in a second time.
There was scant mitigation for this one. It was a dreadful first touch for Maguire, not under extreme pressure, the ball bouncing off him and falling invitingly towards Kasper Dolberg, who scented a break on goal. Maguire tried to recover, too desperately, too rashly, throwing himself into the tackle again, leading leg extended. He clipped the ball but his follow through cleaned the lively Dolberg out – he would be substituted soon after from the injury, so there is no suggestion of exaggeration – and instantly Manzano was reaching for his cards.
Kane was given an early sighter at goal but saw his effort from just outside the penalty box well blocked by a defender
Mount got to the byline after some nice link up play down the right but his pull back couldn’t finds its intended target
England keeper Jordan Pickford came racing off his goalline to beat Martin Braithwaite to the ball and mop up the danger
Kane was picked out in the box by Mount but couldn’t sort his feet out quickly enough to make decent contact with the ball
Maguire had the staple crack at feigned innocence and protest, but you could tell his heart wasn’t in it. He knew this one was on him, the 17th red card for an England senior player entirely justified. It doesn’t get any easier, by the way. Poulsen, the man who was too quick for him early on, plays for Manchester United’s Champions League group opponents, RB Leipzig.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was to be sacrificed as England reorganised, with Tyrone Mings introduced, but before that could happen Gareth Southgate’s night got significantly worse. Another shambles unfolded.
Kyle Walker failed to deal with a relatively tame ball up, Thomas Delaney skipping around the vicinity as he tried to bring it under control. For some reason, Jordan Pickford saw this as an opportunity to involve himself in the play. Why, who knows? Walker didn’t have the ball under control, but neither did Delaney. Pickford’s arrival on the scene merely added to the sense of panic, made worse by the fact the goalkeeper couldn’t get to the ball either. Scrambling, Walker contrived to foul Delaney. Maybe.
England had been in control before they were left in the lurch after Maguire miscontrolled and caught Dolberg on the stretch
Denmark celebrated after Eriksen converted a penalty minutes after Maguire’s red to leave England with a mountain to climb
It didn’t look much – indeed, first impressions suggested handball as much as a foul, although replays confirmed not – but Delaney fell and Manzano pointed to the spot. Southgate continues selecting Pickford arguing he hasn’t made costly mistakes for England, but this was one. He bad a tricky situation worse and confused matters rather than resolving them. Christian Eriksen stepped up on his 100th appearance and drilled it straight down the middle. Pickford helpfully dived out of the way.
It wasn’t a good half for England. Reece James put some excellent crosses into the box but England’s strikers failed to attack them. Mason Mount got into some good positions but his final ball disappointed, and on one occasion he kicked the turf instead. The one time he got the ball to Harry Kane, England’s captain got it trapped under his feet and the danger passed. Kasper Schmeichel’s only save came from a 30 yard effort from Marcus Rashford, collected comfortably.
So Denmark had the better of it. Poulsen nearly put Dolberg in at the near post after seven minutes, while Dolberg dropped off to meet an Eriksen corner moments later, Kalvin Phillips deflecting his shot just wide.
England had a good opportunity to equalise from a free-kick but Reece James’ fierce strike was tipped over the bar
England captain Kane cuts a frustrated figure on a desperately disappointing night got Gareth Southgate’s men
Conor Coady almost grabbed an equaliser at the death but his header was superbly headed off the line by Simon Kjaer
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