Sturridge uses head to spread positive vibes
England 1 Denmark 0
Published 06/03/2014 | 02:30
JUST when it seemed that England supporters, let alone the players, might need the professional services of the sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, Daniel Sturridge gave them something positive to think about.
After initially being wasted out wide by Roy Hodgson, Sturridge eventually moved inside, from where he headed the winner past the outstanding Kasper Schmeichel, showing the finishing ability that has spiced his Liverpool season.
Hodgson must have learned that Sturridge is best through the middle. He certainly learned that the effervescent Raheem Sterling must go to the World Cup, that Ashley Cole is far from finished, that Luke Shaw is full of promise and that Adam Lallana can create chances in tight space.
England had plenty of Liverpool personnel but not the tempo, the pressing, the quick counter-attacking that has been one of the highlights of the Premier League season.
Steven Gerrard was typically assertive in front of the back four, launching moves but still without the vigour of his play under Brendan Rodgers.
The real bright point of a largely gloomy first half was the contribution of Sterling, first on the right, then the left, the youngster taking on full-backs, moving with real speed and passing with real accuracy. He looks stronger than before, less easy to knock off the ball and surely confirmed his place in Hodgson's World Cup 23.
England had not begun with so many Liverpool players since a 2-0 win in Luxembourg in 1977 when Ray Clemence, Emlyn Hughes, Ray Kennedy, Ian Callaghan and Terry McDermott started.
Club understandings were immediately noticeable when Glen Johnson passed to Sterling, who checked back in, looking for runners. Jordan Henderson was arriving quickly while Sturridge was heading towards the far post, but Sterling's ball was straight at Schmeichel.
England lacked Liverpool's tempo but still the combinations continued, Gerrard to Sterling, then Henderson long cross-field to Sterling and then Sterling to Johnson.
It was the most starters from one club since 2001 and Albania away when Manchester United contributed Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Andy Cole. England actually finished with seven United players on the pitch after Teddy Sheringham and Wes Brown came on.
Denmark were decent enough and almost went ahead with six minutes of the first half remaining, Joe Hart denying Jakob Poulsen.
Then, it was England's turn to go close. From a Wayne Rooney corner, Gary Cahill headed the ball down to Sturridge only for Schmeichel to make the save, spreading himself in the starfish fashion made famous by his father.
For 36 minutes of the second half, England were frustrated by Schmeichel and a lack of real drive.
Leicester City's goalkeeper, who has been such an important part of Nigel Pearson's promotion-chasing team, was finally beaten when Lallana did superbly, twisting this way and that, before delivering a ball left-footed for Sturridge to head it back across Schmeichel and in.
In keeping with Peters' teaching, Sturridge used his head. But England will need more thought, more energy in Brazil. (© Daily Telegraph, London)