Tomasson finishes off a bad week for England

England 2 Denmark 3
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The Independent Football

An afternoon which began with the crowd singing "Swing low sweet chariot" in homage to the oval-ball heroes of Sydney ended with their round-ball equivalents succumbing to their fourth home defeat under Sven Goran Eriksson.

Crucially none of these have come in competitive games, but there were enough worrying signs in this friendly for the England coach to spend the winter break pondering his options with concern rather than relish.

There is little disputing the quality of Eriksson's first-choice XI, but the potential of the understudies is yet to realised. Of the chorus line only John Terry, Joe Cole - who scored - and Paul Robinson made a case for promotion to centre stage and their performances were flawed. Glen Johnson and Scott Parker will also remember the match with fondness, but mainly because they took to 27 the number of players given debuts in Eriksson's three-year reign.

In mitigation, few teams can withstand the loss of half a side and England began with five regulars absent then lost Gary Neville to injury. By the second half only David Beckham and Wayne Rooney remained and when they were withdrawn England were fielding, at best, a second XI.

Denmark, who had matched England's starting XI, despite missing some key players of their own, toyed with the ersatz version. Martin Jorgensen, who with Everton's Thomas Grav-esen controlled the game, followed two first-half goals by forcing the 81st-mistake by Paul Robinson from which Jon-Dahl Tomasson scored Denmark's winner. It was their second victory over England in 16 matches, following the Allan Simonsen-inspired win which cost England a place in the 1984 European Championships.

Eight years later Denmark won the competition, a feat England have never managed, and there was enough evidence yesterday to suggest they will be worth avoiding in Portugal next summer. With electrifying pace in attack, supported by plenty of midfield ring-craft, their weakness is defence. With England similarly handicapped the large crowd enjoyed an entertaining game.

After the tension of a week in which they were again at odds with their employers, England were clearly relieved to be playing football, especially a non-competitive match. A sense of freedom characterised much of their play, an admirable quality in attack, less so in defence.

This outlook led to an explosive start. After five minutes Frank Lampard won possession enabling Rooney to advance. His pass towards Emile Heskey was intercepted, but careless defending allowed the ball to roll back into Rooney's path. He lashed a shot in off the crossbar from 15 yards. It was his third goal for England this season, three times the total he has managed for Everton.

England pressed again but Joe Cole lost possession and the Danes broke through a stretched home midfield, switching the play until space was created for Martin Jorgensen, capitalising on Gary Neville's ponderous covering, to volley an equaliser. Though others were also at fault, the critics of Joe Cole seemed vindicated but he had the perfect riposte. From the restart Beckham hoisted a ball towards Heskey, he laid it off to Rooney and Cole swept his square pass past Sorensen with skilled precision.

Though the goals grew less frequent, the match remained open with England's diamond midfield too porous for comfort. Dennis Rommendahl sprinted clear after 14 minutes only to be hacked down by David James' wild lunge. Rommendahl went to hospital, James escaped with a yellow card. Denmark continued to find space on the right, where Ashley Cole was outnumbered, and after 29 minutes a cross was only half-cleared by Matthew Upson. Seeking to recover, he brought Jorgensen down. Jorgensen got up to dispatch the penalty.

With Joe Cole, after sumptuous skill, denied by Sorensen, and Kenneth Perez, after a dangerous counter-attack, shooting wildly over there was no further score before the interval. England re-emerged in a more conventional 4-4-2 with Beckham and Joe Cole in the wide positions. This was designed to give the back four increased protection, but Denmark continued to slice through the quartet.

England's only threat came from Rooney, his rampaging nature bringing mistakes from the Danes. After 55 minutes he seized on an error to crash a thunderbolt against the post from a tight angle. He then brought Sorensen rushing from his goal.

When Rooney departed England were left to hang on. Robinson saved from Gronkjaer, Perez and Peter Lovenkrands but Jorgensen's swirling shot was more testing. Tomasson followed up to ensure a gloomy finish to another bad week for English football.

ENGLAND (4-1-2-1-4): James (West Ham ; G Neville (Man Utd), Terry (Chelsea), Upson (Birmingham), A Cole (Arsenal); Butt (Man Utd); Beckham (Real Madrid), Lampard; J Cole (both Chelsea); Rooney (Everton), Heskey (Liverpool). Substitutes: Johnson (Chelsea) for G Neville, 16; Robinson (gk, Leeds) for James, h/t; Bridge (Chelsea) for A Cole, h/t; P Neville (Man Utd) for Butt, h/t; Beattie (Southampton) for Heskey, h/t; Parker (Charlton) for Beckham, 66; Jenas (Newcastle) for Rooney, 66; Murphy (Liverpool) for J Cole, 75.

DENMARK (4-2-3-1): Sorensen (Aston Villa); Helveg (Internazionale), Henriksen (Panathinaikos), Weighorst (Brondby), C Jensen (B Dortmund); Nielsen (Brondby), Gravesen (Everton); Gronkjaer (Chelsea), Jorgensen (Udinese), Rommendahl (PSV Eindhoven); Sand (Schalke 04). Substitutes: Perez (AZ '67) for Rommendahl, 20; D Jensen (Murcia) for Wieghorst, 29; Priske (Genk) for Helveg, h/t; Tomasson (Milan) for Sand, h/t; Lovenkrands (Rangers) for Gronkjaer, 62; Gaardsoe (West Bromwich ALbion) for Neilsen, 70; Madsen (Bochum) for Jorgensen, 84.

Referee: H V Hrinak (Slovakia).