By Pete Sanderson at Ewood Park
Denmark are within one point of the UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ semi-finals after a dramatic late comeback saw them defeat England 2-1.
An 80th-minute free-kick from Merete Pedersen cancelled out Fara Williams's penalty early in the second half before Catherine Paaske Sørensen broke English hearts with a header following Johanna Rasmussen's dangerous centre. The hosts, who knew victory would have taken them through, dominated for large periods but could only once breach a resolute Danish defence.
There were no surprises in either starting eleven. England captain Faye White recovered in time to take her place in the back four allowing coach Hope Powell to remain faithful to the eleven players who secured their opening 3-2 victory against Finland. Denmark were also unchanged and adopted a 4-3-3 formation with Rasmussen and Nanna Mølbach Johansen hoping to trouble England as they had done against Sweden in their 1-1 draw on Sunday.
It was England who made the brighter start but for all their high-speed thrills and skills down the flanks in the opening exchanges, their forwards failed to make an impact on the scoreboard. Their chief tormentor was Kelly Smith who has endured a torrid time with injuries over the past five years and indeed did depart at the break.
After she was fouled in the first minute for a free-kick, Katie Chapman latched on to a half clearance only to turn the ball just wide of Tine Cederkvist's upright. A minute later Smith again had Denmark on the back foot, swiveling in the box before firing into the side-netting. Rachel Yankey, a player who Danish coach Peter Bonde had earmarked as England's biggest danger, then skipped past two challenges down the left only to send her cross straight at the goalkeeper.
Despite a flurry of activity in their box, the Danes seemed content weathering the early England storm. They even had a chance to snatch a goal in the 21st minute: from Rasmussen's fizzing free-kick, Pedersen headed straight at Jo Fletcher. England's best chance of the half arrived on 35 minutes. Yankey once again escaped the clutches of her marker down the left before squaring a pinpoint cross to Amanda Barr. With the goal at her mercy, however, the striker's header bobbled tamely wide.
After all the pressure, it seemed only a matter of time before England eventually made the breakthrough and, with the second half only six minutes old, their patience finally paid off. Yankey, whose pace was a constant threat, latched on to Williams' through ball and was sent tumbling in the area by Mariann Knudsen.
With well over 12,000 England fans holding their breath in the stands, Williams showed tremendous composure to send the penalty into the bottom right-hand corner beyond Cederkvist's despairing dive. Their lead was richly deserved and England could have secured the victory with Williams and White both missing excellent chances.
But Pedersen's superb free-kick combined with Sørensen's strike left Powell's side deflated, although Finland's draw with Sweden means they are only likely to need a point against the 2001 runners-up here on Saturday to progress. Denmark also know a draw in Blackpool against Finland would be sufficient.