Denmark 1-2 England: Villa beat the Danes
Published 21:16 09/02/11 By Martin Lipton
Far more pluses than minuses. A win, too, and, in the end, one England deserved.
Yet for Fabio Capello, even the good nights leave him with more questions than answers - big dilemmas that are no nearer to being reconciled.
An evening that was supposed to be about one boy from Stevenage was transformed into the evening when another player born in that Hertfordshire town finally showed he could be an England player after all.
For Ashley Young, the England ship might have sailed for good had he not taken his chance in the Parken Stadium.
But after replacing Wayne Rooney at the break, the Aston Villa man did far, far more than his more renowned colleague had, revelling in the responsibility of playing behind club-mate Darren Bent and capping his contribution with a sweetly-taken winner.
Young's finish, passing the ball smoothly into the bottom corner after a surging run by Glen Johnson, was reward for the massive improvement England made after the break, the complete opposite to what happened at this same venue when Sven Goran Eriksson made a raft of changes at the interval six years ago.
Bent, too, looked an England player, cancelling out Daniel Agger's early opener and displaying movement that could have brought at least two more goals, while James Milner became increasingly influential and Joe Hart was back at his most convincing in goal.
While Capello's decisions were justified, especially the one to change his midfield axis to plug the gaps that had been alarmingly apparent throughout a first half that made the England defence look like a precarious high-wire act, it only served to increase the areas of doubt.
Capello, already a millionaire several times over, has made it clear that Jack Wilshere is his final answer for Euro 2012, even if not for Cardiff next month.
Composed and confident on the ball, Wilshere has the quality to make the step up a permanent one.
But as the England boss suggested, the Arsenal youngster needed his senior team-mates to "help" him, and on this occasion the man with the armband did not manage that.
Wilshere is not, by any standard, a defensive midfielder. Neither, as we know, is Frank Lampard - even more evidently the case last night. Nor, for that matter, is Steven Gerrard.
Scott Parker, however, might be.
The West Ham man, making his fourth England appearance eight years after his first - also against the Danes - transformed the structure of the game when he and Gareth Barry entered at the break.
Parker did the nasty job - breaking up play and getting tight to Denmark's 18-year-old prodigy Christian Eriksen, who had lived up to his billing at Ajax as "the next Michael Laudrup" and toying with England, showing precocious self-belief as he exploited the space.
That space was there from the outset in a remarkably open 45 minutes.
Even before Agger headed home Eriksen's cross, too strong for Michael Dawson and Lampard, Rooney had been blocked on the line after Thomas Sorensen just beat the predatory Bent to a short back-pass.
Almost instantly, England levelled. Theo Walcott tied Simon Poulsen in knots before sliding across, with Bent tapping home from two yards.
The chances flowed. Bent only needed a touch to convert from Milner's low cross from the right while at the other end Wilshere made a vital interception, Eriksen drilled against the post from 20 yards after a great link-up with Nicklas Bendtner and Hart saved with his legs from former Charlton winger Dennis Rommedahl.
There was still time for Lampard to shoot just wide and be flagged offside when he back-heeled Walcott's cross into the net.
But it was only when Capello made the interval changes, tightening up and protecting the back division, while Young immediately settled into the hole, that England looked the part.
Young was at home alongside his past and present club-mates, Milner dominating the left, Bent always looking to run in behind, and England created clear chances.
Bent might have converted from Young's first touch, with the replacement then flashing a header into Sorensen's hands, before Bent, found by another excellent Milner ball, smashed wide.
Hart was still alert, pulling off another good low save to thwart Rommedahl's cross-shot and then Johnson broke with menace to the edge of the box, Young's precise finish was the decisive moment.
A positive night for England and Capello, for Young, Milner and Bent too.
The real tests remain ahead.