Sturridge header rewards rough-edged England
Daniel Sturridge scored an 82nd-minute header to give England a 1-0 win over Denmark on Wednesday in their last friendly before manager Roy Hodgson names his World Cup squad.
Hodgson gave a debut to Southampton left-back Luke Shaw and experimented with a malleable new playing system, but it took the second-half introductions of Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck to give England a spark.
Lallana teed up the winning goal for Sturridge, whose back-post header ended a 264-minute goal drought for England at Wembley Stadium after November's friendly defeats by Chile and Germany.
It was a night that left Hodgson with as many questions as answers, but when his side next take to the field at Wembley against Peru on May 30, he will have already selected his squad for the trip to Brazil.
While English thoughts are fully fixed on the World Cup, the evening began with a nod to the past, as the deaths of England greats Tom Finney and Bert Williams, as well as former Denmark manager Richard Moller Nielsen, were marked with a minute's applause.
Hodgson included five Liverpool players in his starting XI and there was a fluidity to England's shape that seemed designed to recreate the Merseyside club's approach under their current manager, Brendan Rodgers.
Wayne Rooney swapped positions with the Liverpool pair of Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, with a chipped pass from the latter allowing the Manchester United man to elude Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, only to lash well wide of the vacant goal.
Denmark created two clear chances in the first half, with Michael Krohn-Dehli volleying over from a Casper Sloth cross and Chris Smalling obliged to block after Jakob Poulsen was allowed to bear down on goal.
It was England, however, who came closest to opening the scoring, with Sterling hitting the post from Ashley Cole's low cross before Schmeichel channelled the inspiration of his illustrious father, Peter, by spreading himself brilliantly to save at the feet of Sturridge.
Shaw was handed his debut at half-time, the 18-year-old coming on as a substitute for Cole and becoming the fourth Southampton player to be awarded a first cap by Hodgson.
He quickly caught the eye, striding forward and whipping in a dangerous cross, but Denmark continued to threaten, with Joe Hart saving from Nicklas Bendtner and then flying out to thwart substitute Morten Rasmussen.
The introductions of Lallana and Welbeck gave England extra invention in attack though, and the hosts belatedly began to apply concerted pressure.
Welbeck twice forced Schmeichel into action with a crisp drive and then a poked shot from Jordan Henderson's pass, before the Leicester City goalkeeper had to tip over a rasping effort from Sturridge.
With eight minutes remaining the pressure told, as Sturridge headed Lallana's clipped left-wing cross past Schmeichel to give England hope of more convincing displays ahead.
The best Denmark could offer in response was a half-volley from Danny Olsen that comfortably cleared Hart's crossbar, but although Morten Olsen's side will not play at the World Cup, they were far from outclassed.
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