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Bulgaria took their leave of UEFA EURO 2004™ without scoring a goal and having seen captain Stilian Petrov sent off in a game which Denmark thoroughly deserved to win.
Bulgaria coach Plamen Markov had indicated beforehand that he would happily settle for an ugly win after being on the wrong end of a heavy 5-0 defeat by Sweden on Monday, but a victory in Braga never looked likely.
Markov tried to stifle the threat posed by the Danes by playing five men in midfield with Dimitar Berbatov ploughing a lone furrow up front. It was a strategy designed to contain Denmark rather than take the game to them and from the first whistle Bulgaria looked a demoralised team who had lost the form and confidence that took them to Portugal as winners of their qualifying group.
Denmark on the other hand were positive from the outset with Dennis Rommedahl and Martin Jørgensen stretching the Bulgarian defence and sending a regular supply of crosses into the danger area. Given the chances they created in the first half the Danes should have been ahead much earlier than the 44th minute, and for a while it looked as though their profligacy in front of goal might cost them again.
Tomasson strikes again
But just before half-time Jon Dahl Tomasson - who scored both goals the last time these two countries met, in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in 2001 - struck again to ease the Danish nerves. Jesper Grønkjær's goal in injury time was the icing on the cake, but the Danes should have had the game wrapped up long before then.
It was a successful comeback for Thomas Gravesen, who was voted the Carlsberg Man of the Match. His authority in the Danish midfield was evident throughout and he supplied the clever through-pass that created the first goal. "The team played well in the first half," said Gravesen, who was suspended from Denmark's opening match. "It's easy to play well in a good team. We have room to improve and we need to score more goals."
Denmark coach Morten Olsen said: "It's all about getting points and now we have four. We played a solid first half, but then failed to keep up the pace in the second half. The fact we had the opportunity to play Gravesen and Grønkjær was massive. We scored two wonderful goals and Jon Dahl Tomasson also deserves praise for the way he attacked and defended. It's all about scoring more goals than your opponents and we did that today."
Markov felt his side's efforts were not reflected in the final scoreline and, had Martin Petrov made more of his opportunity at the end of the first half, the result might have been different. "We didn't deserve to lose by such a margin today," he said. "[But] Denmark deserved to win.
"We knew how good they were and their quality showed on the pitch today. I'm very sorry that Martin Petrov missed his chance, just as he did against Sweden. After Stilian Petrov was sent off our game completely fell apart. The reaction of the players after the sending-off was neither adequate nor professional."
Markov now has to reshape his side for the final game against Italy without the suspended Petrov and Rosen Kirilov - who picked up a second yellow card - and Ivailo Petkov who left the field injured at the end of the first half. Bulgaria will hope for better than they managed in Braga.
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