England's defence gave cause for concern but Darren Bent, Jack Wilshere and even Fabio Capello will have been heartened by this worthwhile friendly
This was initially such an entertaining contest because both sides were so open – Fabio Capello must have endured spasms of real concern at times. England looked flustered defensively too often, particularly in the first half when the home side were at their most energetic, and, after all, England were only a Rio Ferdinand away from a first-choice back five until the hour-mark. The Danes exploited inviting pockets of space to discomfort the visitors, their pace and fluid forward-line capitalising on the areas vacated by Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson on the break. Rather more surprising was English vulnerability at the balls from set-pieces hit into the penalty area from either flank. The Danes are ranked 28th in the world and endured a miserable time in South Africa. Better sides would have prospered against this English defence.
Darren Bent scored a tap-in and missed other presentable chances, but he still staked a persuasive claim to start next month's Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales. Capello has been waiting for his opportunity to play Aston Villa's new £24m forward more regularly, with his involvement limited by back problems since he scored in the 3-1 win in Switzerland during September. This was his eighth cap and he will be frustrated to have departed with only the early equaliser to his name, although encouraged by his link play with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young. Capello said he had been impressed by Bent's "running and pressing" since his move to Villa Park. "That is what he needs to do for this team," he added. The coach will have been further heartened and hopeful he has an injury-free Bent to pick for Cardiff.
The desire not to overload the Arsenal midfielder with unrealistic expectations before his full debut was understandable, but this performance justified some of the excitement at his involvement. He began with metronomic, simple and well‑paced passes, sitting in front of his defenders, before demonstrating a spirit of adventure by scuttling upfield in support of the forward play when opportunities arose. He is no ferocious tackler and Denmark did threaten through the middle ground which he patrolled in a free-flowing contest, but his assuredness was striking. Wilshere seemed at ease amid the older heads. Capello had pinpointed the 19-year-old and Liverpool's £35m Andy Carroll as the "two players who can play from this moment with the senior team". No pressure, but this suggested Arsenal and England have unearthed a gem.
When the Danes prospered, their play revolved around the brilliance of their own teenager of the moment, Christian Eriksen. Morten Olsen's creator-in-chief is six months younger than Wilshere, 19 next Monday, but equally at home in this company. His invention unsettled the visitors, his cross supplying Daniel Agger with the opening goal and his skimmed shot beating Joe Hart only to cannon from a post. Eriksen went to the World Cup in the summer and this was his 11th cap. Ajax will be thrilled that the player plucked from Odense for €1m in 2008 remains theirs to develop. He may not yet be strong enough to thrive in English football, and his influence rather waned after the interval, but he has the trickery, delivery and exquisite technique to flourish wherever his club career takes him.
The pre-match debate had centred upon whether the appetite still existed among the squad to play in contests such as this, crammed into an onerous domestic calendar. But many in the visitors' squad will have been pepped by events at the Parken. Aside from Cole, captaining the team after the interval on his 87th appearance, a record for a full‑back, there was a welcome return to the fray for Scott Parker – four appearances with four different clubs, and the first not to end in defeat – and a first international goal for an impressive Ashley Young. Capello could be relieved at avoiding becoming the first England manager to oversee successive defeats (in normal time) since 1993, and at a first victory in Denmark since 1978. Heady days indeed.