Sturridge scores winner as England defeats Denmark
Daniel Sturridge’s goal secured a 1-0 win over Denmark in England’s final game before selecting their World Cup squad.
Sturridge netted the only goal of the game late on at Wembley Stadium, meaning the Three Lions avoided the ignominy of going three successive games without finding the target on home soil.
Roy Hodgson was looking for his fringe players to sparkle on Wednesday and book themselves a seat on the plane to Brazil, but few contenders were able to leave a lasting impression – with Raheem Sterling the only one to rise above the mediocre.
Instead, the Three Lions coach will have been concerned by the ease at which his side were carved open on occasions – with Jakob Poulsen allowed to make one dangerous burst into the box which went untracked.
At the opposite end of the field, England did see the woodwork struck towards the end of the first half, with a nudge in the back of Sterling preventing him from converting as Peter Ankersen diverted an Ashley Cole cross onto the frame of the goal.
The 68,573-strong Wembley crowd managed to replicate the atmosphere of Sunday’s League Cup final following a touching minute’s applause to Sir Tom Finney.
But neither team responded and a dull first half unfolded.
Hodgson’s suspect line-up did not help. Sturridge, one of five Liverpool players in the home team, started wide and just nine minutes in he was stationed at left-back, defending Lars Jacobsen’s cross.
The only flash point in the opening 15 minutes came when Daniel Agger caught Jack Wilshere’s left ankle in a challenge.
The midfielder slammed the turf in agony, and Hodgson came to the touchline looking concerned, but after two minutes’ worth of treatment, the Arsenal man was fine to carry on.
Denmark barely ventured over the halfway line, but England offered little down the other end either.
Steven Gerrard pinched the ball off Casper Sloth, but the defender took the England captain down before he could shoot.
Sloth was issued with a yellow card and, had it not been a friendly, he could have seen red. It did not matter much anyway as Wayne Rooney put the resulting free-kick high and wide of goal.
Rooney pierced the back four with a clever run, but Kasper Schmeichel came to the rescue. The goalkeeper then stood carefree as Gary Cahill’s volley sailed over.
Joe Hart was called into action for the first time after half an hour to collect a long ball over the top before Nicklas Bendtner could finish.
Jakob Poulsen then set home nerves jangling when he cut in from the right flank and squared the ball across the box, but Gary Cahill and Cole cleared before Bendtner could convert.
The chance spurred England into life. Sterling and Peter Ankersen slid in at the far post to meet Cole’s dangerous cross but the ball struck a post and Denmark survived.
Schmeichel kept his team level just before the break when he spread his body wide just like his father used to do to deny Sturridge.
Hodgson re-jigged his team at the interval with Shaw replacing Cole. Sturridge also swapped places with Rooney, but England could still not find a cutting edge.
Boos rang out as Rooney was replaced by Danny Welbeck. England’s other substitute, Adam Lallana, showed promise with a clever turn which fooled two Danish defenders, but there was still no threat to Schmeichel.
Southampton full-back Luke Shaw was introduced for his senior debut at the interval, and things did improve marginally in the second 45 minutes.
Joe Hart was forced to smoother an effort from Morten Rasmussen as England wobbled once more, while Danny Welbeck tested Kasper Schmeichel on a couple of occasions after stepping off the bench.
The defining moment of the night then arrived eight minutes from time as Adam Lallana worked a short corner and clipped the ball into the box for Sturridge to nod back across Schmeichel and into the bottom corner.