Portugal Leave it Late to Keep Dream Alive

Before kick-off today, the Portuguese knew that a loss would see them knocked out and a draw would leave them with the unenviable task of having to beat Germany, and hoping the other result went their way. They managed to secure the win, and keep their Euro 2012 dream alive. But only just.

Morten Olsen’s team made the early running inside 10 minutes, enjoying good spells of possession in and around the half-way line, without really making any inroads into the Portuguese final third. However, there were a few danger signals for the Danes as both Miguel Veloso, Fabio Coentrao and Nani all managed to deliver quality balls into the box, requiring some rugged defending from Agger and co. One of the turning points of the first half came as Niki Zimling had to hobble off, with Jakob Poulsen coming on as a replacement. Zimling’s partnership with Kvist was the platform from which the Danish side were able to build in their opening encounter with Holland, and Zimling’s absence upset the balance of the midfield somewhat. The Portuguese then went on to enjoy a good period of attack, although it took a set-piece to finally make the break through. It was the quality of the delivery from the corner taken by Moutinho that left Pepe with the all too easy task of guiding his header home . The Real Madrid centre half made a fantastic angled run beyond the front post, leaving his marker, Daniel Agger, for dead, before meeting the ball to power his header past the flailing Andersen.

It was another quality delivery that delivered the second goal for Bento’s men, with Coentrao swinging in a ball from deep on the left. Poulsen was unable to deal with the cross and as the ball made its way to Nani, Postiga darted to the front post. A delightfully played square ball was then expertly turned into the top corner by the under-fire striker. The game was beginning to look a foregone conclusion before Denmark struck back with one of the most well-worked goals of the tournament thus far. A long diagonal ball from golden-locked centre back Simon Kjaer was was knocked down by Bendtner to Eriksen, who gave the ball back to the big man on the edge of the opposition box. He then spread the play to the impressive Lars Jacobsen, who delivered a quality ball to the back post, where Michael Krohn-Dehli guided the ball back across  the six yard box with a controlled header to the mercurial Bendtner to nod in from all of 2 yards.

As the second half began, a sense of belief washed over the Danes and they started to come into the game more, with Eriksen enjoying some good periods of possession in the Portguese half. However, Portugal were clearly anxious to put the game to bed and looked threatening on the break. Twice the young Danish midfield starlet Eriksen was caught in possession and lead to glorious chances for Cristiano Ronaldo to finally put his stamp on the tournament. However, the out of sorts Real Madrid man was first thwarted by Andersen and then inexplicably placed his shot wide of the mark when through on goal. The superstar forward was certainly more involved in this game than the isolated figure we saw in his side’s opener with Germany, but he seemed to be lacking that cutting edge that has made him one of the world’s biggest names. Whilst the better of the chances seemed to be falling the way of Portugal, the plucky Danes maintained their shape and began to really enjoy some freedom down their right hand side, with Bendtner spraying innumerable balls out to bucaneering Jacobsen. They managed to occupy some fantastic positions down that side of the pitch, without fashioning a real chance for themselves.

They got their just desserts for their endeavours though, with ten minutes to play as they drew level. It was that man Jacobsen who delivered a fantastic ball to the back post, where he had found Nicklas Bendtner in space to power home a decent header. Questions will once again be asked of Pepe, who found himself sucked under the delivery from Jacobsen, much like he did for Gomez’s goal in the Germany goal. The Danish faithful began bouncing as their egotistical centre forward celebrated his 6th goal in 5 games against the Portuguese.

Ripples of apprehension spread throughout the Portugal side as they desperately tried to bomb forward and secure a much needed three points. Their tournament was saved with all of 3 minutes on the clock, thanks to substitute Silvestre Varela. The Porto man, who had missed a glorious chance for a leveller against Germany almost contrived to miss this one too, as he had a wild swing with his left foot at the cross from Coentrao. However, he made a sweet connection with his right on the pivot, smashing the ball past the helpless Andersen. Simon Poulsen, who otherwise had another good game, might be a little disappointed that he didn’t block the shot, but it was superbly taken effort. It was heartbreak for Denmark, and although he managed to create one more chance for Lasse Schone, it was the substitutes first involvement after coming on for Krohn-Dehli, and he rushed his opportunity by screwing it into the stands.

The Danes were perhaps hard done by after their resolute performance to come away with nothing from the game, especially after coming from two down. But it is Portugal who now go into their game with Holland with it all to play for, whilst Denmark have a lot of work on their hands to progress from the group stage, requiring a result against Germany. They will certainly have made their impact on the competition with their opening result against Holland. Will the misfiring Ronaldo be able to find some form in time to impress against Holland and help his side out of the group phase? Only time will tell, but it has left the final round of fixtures from Group B a tantalising prospect for the neutral observer.

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