Christian Eriksen

How Christian Eriksen fared on his return to football

Sean Walsh
He's back
He's back / Marc Atkins/GettyImages
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From Brentford Community Stadium - It was the day everyone had been waiting for. The world was watching (well, apart from those affected by the UK's 3pm blackout, but it was fine for everyone else not at the ground). Saturday 26 February was the miraculous date that Christian Eriksen was going to play football again, eight months after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The stage had been set by Brentford boss Thomas Frank - first with a phone call in mid-December regarding Eriksen's availability, and in his press conference on Friday when he revealed that the midfielder would return this weekend at home to Newcastle.

Frank added that he didn't want to reveal whether Eriksen would start from the off in order to preserve a 'cliffhanger', but the tale of his return may have been a slightly more positive one had he not began the match on the bench.

Just ten minutes into this relegation six-pointer, Josh Dasilva mistimed a lunge trying to control a loose ball, planting his studs into the ankles of Matt Targett. The midfielder was initially awarded a free-kick for the coming together, but Mike Dean changed his mind after watching the challenge back on the VAR monitor, and suddenly the story of the day had changed.

While Brentford looked tidy in possession, they ultimately went into the half-time break two goals down and with a grand total of zero shots to their name.

Frank did not turn to his bench at half-time, but minutes into the second half, recalled Eriksen from his touchline warmup and began briefing him with tactical instructions.

With 52 minutes on the clock, the four steep banks of the Brentford Community Stadium stood and applauded as a man who essentially died for seven minutes last June stepped foot into a professional football match again, replacing Mathias Jensen in a reverse of the swap from that near-fatal day at Euro 2020.

Eriksen's arrival saw the ten-man Bees immediately step up their search of a way back into the contest. His touches were calculated, his composure was transmissible to his teammates and his technique was a level above anyone else out on that pitch.

The midfielder largely flitted between the lines in a 4-3-2 formation but tracked back when needed (which in a situation like this was a lot, it resembled a bleep test at times).

With stoppage time looming, Eriksen played his trademark half-volley pass forward towards Bryan Mbeumo and Ivan Toney, eventually falling to Vitaly Janelt to register Brentford's only shot on target of the afternoon.

All-in-all, it was a promising return to action for Eriksen, and had the opening stages of the game gone differently, he may have been celebrating a win this evening.

But that's irrelevant. The fact that Eriksen is still alive is a miracle. The fact he can still play football is a miracle. If he had come on, misplaced every single pass he played, booted it into his own net and pranced around like a prima donna, this would still have been one of the most important - if not at least greatest - days of his life.

That won't be celebrated like a goal, but it should still release those same endorphins. Eriksen will undoubtedly be keen to point out that this isn't a happy ending, but a happy new beginning.

Frank instructs his Brentford squad to live and breathe a result for 24 hours, but then to let it go and move on immediately after. When Eriksen and his teammates reconvene at their Jersey Road training ground, it will be another day in his life as a footballer again.

But until then, the world can rejoice that he is simply back.

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