Ragged England escape with draw after disappointing display against Denmark

Boos greeted the final whistle as Gareth Southgate’s England stumbled to a 1-1 draw with Denmark and missed the chance to top their European Championship group with a game to spare.

Serbia’s late equaliser against Slovenia in the early kick-off meant the Euro 2020 runners-up knew a win would see them through to the round of 16 as Group C winners.

But Morten Hjulmand’s thumping strike cancelled out Harry Kane’s first group-stage goal since 2018 as England fumbled their chance at early progress in Frankfurt on Thursday.

This was not a display to strike fear into Europe’s elite, with Southgate’s selection and the underwhelming all-round team performance sure to be pored over in minute detail before facing Slovenia.

England started with the same team that beat Serbia and, yet again, took an early lead, this time through skipper Kane after Kyle Walker caught Victor Kristiansen napping.

But, as in Gelsenkirchen, they wobbled after going ahead and Hjulmand’s belting 30-yard shot in off the foot of a post saw their Euro 2020 semi-final opponents level.

Both sides had chances to win it, with Phil Foden hitting a post before being withdrawn as part of a bold triple substitution that failed to spark an improvement in a flat England performance.

England fans let their displeasure be known at Deutsche Bank Park, where the poor playing surface forced Walker into an early change of boots.

Harry Kane slots the ball into the Denmark goal with his left foot
Harry Kane slotted home England’s opener (Adam Davy/PA).

When the vice-captain returned he played the ball in to Foden to turn away from his man and get away a strike during a cagey start, which came to life after a Danish defensive error.

Kristiansen was so concerned by Bukayo Saka’s presence that Walker managed to pick his pocket on the outside, driving forward and seeing a low cross ricochet into path of Kane to slot home from close range.

Denmark’s response to the 18th-minute opener was as impressive as England’s was alarming.

While Southgate’s men were defending the box well, they were allowing the Scandinavians too much space outside it and their pressure told in the 34th minute.

Kane swept a pass from a throw-in into no man’s land, with Hjulmand passed the ball and continuing to hit a beautiful strike from 30 yards that beat Jordan Pickford and crashed in off a post.

Denmark’s Morten Hjulmand celebrates his equaliser with his team-mates
Denmark’s Morten Hjulmand celebrates his equaliser (Martin Rickett/PA).

The red hordes roared as England continued to invite pressure, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg denied between Foden chances.

Kane raised his arms in frustration after the first of those openings, having seen the forward take a tame shot rather than slip him in at the end of a stunning run.

Declan Rice saw a deflected drive held and Saka bravely headed into the side-netting early in the second half, which was only nine minutes old when Southgate turned to his bench.

The ineffective Trent Alexander-Arnold was replaced by regular midfielder Conor Gallagher as England sought to get a grip on proceedings.

Southgate held his head in his hands when a low 25-yard Foden strike cracked a post, with Saka flashing the ball across the face of goal after Gallagher made an important intervention at the other end.

Harry Kane shakes hands with Gareth Southgate after being substituted
Harry Kane was replaced by Gareth Southgate in the second half (Adam Davy/PA).

But England’s play became nervier as the game wore on, with Southgate introducing a new-look front three of Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze and Ollie Watkins in place of Foden, Saka and Kane.

It was a bold move with around 20 minutes remaining and nearly paid immediate dividends, with Watkins put in behind by Bellingham and forcing Schmeichel into a save from a tight angle.

But the changes did not spark a noticeable upturn and Denmark looked most likely to snatch a winner.

Hojbjerg seemed desperate to score from distance and a superb Marc Guehi recovery tackle stopped a dangerous Alexander Bah cross.

England looked happy with a point as the clock wound down – a view that their fans in Frankfurt certainly did not share.