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Team England push Denmark all the way

Team England push Denmark all the way

Team England took Denmark all the way before losing their European Team Championship semi-final 3-2 in Moscow today.

But all the team members played their part in a great four and a half hour tussle with their old rivals, who had beaten them 3-2 in Liverpool in the 2009 final and had toppled them in the semi-finals in Amsterdam two years ago.

Rajiv Ouseph showed he is a far better player than his world ranking of No. 34 when he stunned young Dane Victor Axelsen to make it 1-1.

Then Chris Adcock and Andy Ellis defeated world No 1 pair Matthias Boe and Carsten Mogensen for the first time in five meetings in a brilliant three-game battle to level the contest for a second time at 2-2.

But Denmark's higher-ranked players won the mixed doubles, women's singles and women's doubles to clinch a 3-2 victory and leave Center Parcs-supported Team England with bronze again.

Ouseph gave the squad a real boost by scoring a 21-16 21-12 victory over world No. 22 Axelson in his 49th England appearance.

Ouseph had trailed 15-11 in the opening game but won six points in a row after cutting the deficit to 16-15. And he was 3-0 up in the second game before Axelsen won his next point to end a nine-point sequence. Even so Ouseph pulled away confidently to claim victory in their first meeting.

His win levelled the contest at 1-1 after World Superseries Final winners and world No. 4 pair Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen won the opening mixed doubles, beating Chris Adcock and Jenny Wallwork 21-13 21-16. Adcock and Wallwork, along with women's singles player Sarah Walker, were the only Team England players to have featured in all four matches.

The pressure was on new English National women's singles champion Walker to follow Ouseph's lead and take her contest against Line Kjaersfeldt.

But despite the bravest of efforts Walker, who had won one of their two previous meetings, went down in a tense three-game contest.

Walker took the opening game 21-16 but the younger Danish player responded to take the second game 21-13. In the decider Walker held an early lead but once Kjaersfeldt drew level at 8-8 there was barely a point between them until the Dane edged ahead 17-15.

Walker responded to pull level at 17-17 before Kjaesfeldt grabbed the initiative and held three match points at 20-17. Walker saved one of them but Kjaersfeldt clinched the decider 21-18 at the second attempt.

Now it was up to Team England's men's doubles pair Adcock and Ellis to keep the contest alive - and they didn't disappoint, winning a pulsating match with the Boe and Mogensen to take the semi-final to a deciding contest.

Adcock and Ellis won 16-21 22-20 21-19 in a gripping 63-minute duel to beat the Danish pair for the first time in five meetings. The contest was almost as close as their match at the same stage two years ago in Amsterdam when the Danes won 27-29 21-19 21-17.

Victory by Adcock and Ellis meant the semi-final hinged on the women's doubles between Heather Olver and Lauren Smith and world No. 3 pair Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl.

The Danes dominated the first game and looked poised to take it when they led 19-10. But they took their foot off the pedal and the England girls launched an amazing fightback, saving game points at 20-15 then astonishingly moving ahead 21-20 before the Danes responded and took the opener on their sixth game point 23-21.

In the second game they pulled away from 5-5 and brought Team England's brave effort to an end when they clinched the match 21-13 on their first match point. In the final they will face 2011 runners-up Germany, who came back to defeat Russia 3-1 after losing the opening mixed doubles.

There's no doubting, however, that today's display will set the England players up for the challenges that lie ahead at next month's Yonex All England Open Championships in Birmingham (March 5-10).