UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ hosts Finland made the perfect start to their campaign as Maija Saari's goal gave them an opening Group A victory against Denmark.
In front of 16,324 fans at the Olympic Stadium, a record for a women's international in Finland, Denmark dominated the first half but could not score. Saari, however, did just that with a crossed free-kick not long after the break and Finland maintained control thereafter. They can book a quarter-final place by defeating fellow Sunday winners the Netherlands here on Wednesday; Denmark will aim to bounce back against the side they pipped in their qualifying group, Ukraine.
After nearly three years without a competitive game since the loss in Denmark that cost them a 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup place, Finland were keen to get going and Essi Sainio headed wide early on. Denmark took time to settle but came mighty close when Johanna Rasmussen outpaced her marker and sent a shot across the face of goal which Maiken Pape so nearly turned in.
Denmark on top
Rasmussen, a huge threat on the left of a forward three, also made Tinja-Riikka Korpela save after a fine individual run and her ensuing corner resulted in a scramble which ended with Line Røddik Hansen shooting over. Another cross found the head of Pape but Tiina Salmén intervened. At this stage it seemed Finland were in grave peril but their defence gradually imposed themselves.
To reinvigorate things on the right, at the break Denmark coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller introduced Katrine Veje, who made a superb debut in a friendly against England last month. However, four minutes into the second period Finland took the lead. Rasmussen's Umeå IK club-mate Saari curled in a free-kick from the right wing which eluded everybody and flew inside the far post for her first goal in 31 international appearances. Heidi Johansen was caught out by that one but the goalkeeper did then stop an Anna Westerlund drive.
On 58 minutes Pape sent Veje through on goal with a superb diagonal ball but Korpela advanced to smother. Finland, though, were now full of belief and Johansen had to stretch to tip over a dipping Laura Österberg Kalmari strike. Johansen also blocked a Sanna Talonen shot on the turn, and Korpela did likewise when Rasmussen seemed certain to score, meaning Finland ensured a companion piece to the 2-1 win against Denmark four years ago in England that took them through to the last four.