Harry Maguire was sent off for two bookable offenses inside 31 minutes as England slipped to a 1-0 Nations League defeat to Denmark at Wembley.
Manchester United captain Maguire can have no complaints after becoming only the third England player to be sent off at Wembley for two wild lunges, making England’s task all the more difficult.
Four minutes and a defensive catastrophe later, Kyle Walker conceded what was a generous penalty, with the spot kick dispatched emphatically by former Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen.
The 10-man hosts struggled to rouse a response in the second half, and slipped to only their second defeat in 22 home internationals to drop out of the top two in Group A2, with the Danes climbing above England into second.
Harry Maguire walks off after getting a red card for a tackle on Denmark's striker Kasper Dolberg
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After the final whistle, the Spanish referee, who had been getting under England players' skin for much of the match, brandished another red card to debutant Reece James, for something he said. It is the first time two England players have been sent off in the same game.
Maguire could have in fact received a straight red for his lunge in just the sixth minute, but he did not last much longer as an almost identical needless lunge saw him sent off.
Then, England fell apart at the back. A long ball was missed by Conor Coady, Kyle Walker could not clear the danger, Jordan Pickford, not immune to errors this season, was stranded in no-man's land, with Walker fouling Thomas Delaney to give Eriksen the chance to score what was the match winner. It was a soft award, to say the least.
After the break, England went close through Mason Mount, but Denmark never looked like they would relinquish their lead as they maintained a run of just two defeats in their last 40 international matches.
Pierre Emile Hoejbjerg vies for the ball with Harry Kane
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TALKING POINT - Is Gareth Southgate too conservative?
What does Jack Grealish have to do to be a certain starter for England? Why did Gareth Southgate wait so long to make attacking changes, when losing, at home, against Denmark?
There are many reasons why Mason Mount is preferred to Grealish, given how better he is with defensive discipline, but this generation of England players is packed full with attacking players, and with a bit more adventure, Southgate could certainly see his side pose more of a threat.
In the cold light of day, it is pretty concerning that a country who can call upon the attacking talents of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Danny Ings, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood has only scored one non-penalty goal in its last four competitive matches.
Disciplinary problems have reduced Southgate's options, but that is partly his own doing. The England manager still has much to prove.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Christian Eriksen
As England struggled with their reduced numbers, Eriksen ran the show, using his experience of the Wembley pitch to keep England at bay. Eriksen has been directly involved in 32 goals in his last 35 appearances for his national side (24 goals, 8 assists), which for a country like Denmark is an incredible record, especially from midfield.
Christian Eriksen of Denmark celebrates after he scores his team's first goal from the penalty spot past Jordan Pickford of England during the UEFA Nations League group stage match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium on October 14, 2020 in Lon
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England: Pickford 5, James 7, Walker 5, Coady 6, Maguire 3, Maitland-Niles 4, Rice 6, Phillips 6, Mount 6, Rashford 4, Kane 5... Subs: Henderson 6, Sancho 6, Calvert-Lewin 6.
Denmark: Schmeichel 6, Wass 6, Kjaer 7, Christensen 6, Skov 6, Delaney 7, Eriksen 8, Hojbjerg 6, Braithwaite 6, Poulsen 6, Dolberg 6... Subs: Vestergaard 6, Maehle 6, Sisto 6, Jorgensen 6.
31’ - RED CARD!!! Oh my word! What a awful time Harry Maguire is having as he earns his second yellow card and an early bath! Another wild lunge.
34’ - PENALTY TO DENMARK! Did not seem to be much in that as Delaney earns the visitors a penalty. A mess defensively from England.
35’ - GGGGGOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!! England 0-1 Denmark. Eriksen steps up to convert from 12 yards. A horrendous five minutes for England. Maguire had only just got off the pitch when Coady missed a header, Jordan Pickford came out and got nowhere, Kyle Walker tried to clear but caught Delaney to concede a penalty. It was very, very generous, but the defending was all over the place.
65’ - WHAT A SAVE! Brilliant from Schmeichel to deny Mount from point-blank range. Corner comes is, Rice heads the ball back into the middle, Mount is there, heads for the top corner, but Schmeichel springs across to claw the ball out.
This was only England’s third home defeat in their last 50 competitive internationals on home soil (W41 D6), also losing against Croatia in November 2007 and Spain in September 2018 in this run.
The seven meetings between England and Denmark at Wembley have all ended 1-0 – England have won five of those, while Denmark have won the other two.
Harry Maguire became the third player to be sent off for England at Wembley, after Paul Scholes (1999 vs Sweden) and Steven Gerrard (2012 vs Ukraine).
England received a red card and conceded a penalty goal in the same international for the first time since their last 16 match at the 1998 World Cup vs Argentina.
Harry Maguire’s red card after 31 minutes was the second earliest by an England player in an international, after Rob Green vs Ukraine in October 2009 (14 minutes).
This was Marcus Rashford’s 40th England cap, becoming only third player to reach that tally before the age of 23, after Michael Owen in 2002 and Wayne Rooney in 2007.