Varela revives Portugal's as Denmark come unstuck in EURO 2012 Group B
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Denmark 2-3 Portugal
Substitute Silvestre Varela struck three minutes from time after two Nicklas Bendtner goals had brought Denmark back from 2-0 down.
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Substitute Silvestre Varela scored an 87th-minute winner as Portugal revived their UEFA EURO 2012 fortunes in an absorbing 3-2 victory.
Nicklas Bendtner looked to have earned Denmark a stirring share of the spoils in a memorable 50th international appearance. Trailing to two first-half goals in a 12-minute period from Pepe and Hélder Postiga, Bendtner pulled one back just before half-time before making it 2-2 with ten minutes remaining after Cristiano Ronaldo had twice fluffed his lines. Portugal were eyeing the Group B exit door but Varela slammed it shut with an emphatic low strike after initially failing to connect fully with Fábio Coentrão's cross.
Unburdened by the necessity for points that an opening-day victory gives you, Denmark made a start true to the maxim emblazoned down the side of their bus at UEFA EURO 2012: Vikinger uden frygt (Vikings without fear). They advanced down the wings, won a rash of early corners and only the alertness of Pepe, sliding in, denied Christian Eriksen when the midfielder intercepted a weak effort just inside the penalty area with the defence pushing up.
Haste, though, can be the enemy of perfection. Slowly Portugal gained a foothold, with Ronaldo's licence to drift inside causing consternation; by the time Niki Zimling limped off on 16 minutes Denmark were already losing their grip. They duly fell behind midway through the first period as Pepe lost his marker and rose at the near post to glance in João Moutinho's pinpoint corner.
It was only Portugal's second goal in five outings but having rediscovered where the net was they had little trouble finding it again after 36 minutes. Denmark's defending was again questionable as a poor clearance was quickly worked into Nani's feet and the winger drilled in a cross that Postiga, peeling away from Simon Kjær, speared beyond Stephan Andersen. It all looked so easy but, with four minutes of the half remaining, Denmark had a lifeline.
An awkward ball towards the far post looked innocuous enough but nobody picked up Michael Krohn-Dehli. With Rui Patrício committed to closing him down, the winger unselfishly headed it back across goal where Bendtner, still only 24, nodded in what must be the easiest of his now 20 international goals. It was also his fifth strike in as many meetings with the Selecção das Quinas, including one in each of the sides' meetings in qualifying – a sixth would follow.
Portugal, without a win in 2012, could have dropped their heads yet instead they set about restoring their two-goal cushion, increasingly aided by Denmark's high defensive line as Morten Olsen's men sought an equaliser. Postiga exposed it beautifully soon after half-time, but Ronaldo finished second best in the one-on-one with Andersen.
The Real Madrid CF man squandered an even more presentable chance 13 minutes from time, side-footing wide with only the goalkeeper to beat and Bendtner looked to have made him pay with a far-post header – Varela, though, had other ideas. It means both sides go into Sunday's concluding group games with hope of advancing, though Denmark may be without Dennis Rommedahl after he limped off on the hour feeling his hamstring.
Denmark: Andersen; Simon Poulsen, Agger (c), Kjær, Jacobsen; Krohn-Dehli (Schøne 90+2), Zimling (Jakob Poulsen 16), Eriksen, Kvist, Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 60); Bendtner
Substitutes: Lindegaard, Schmeichel, Christian Poulsen, Bjelland, Okore, Silberbauer, Pedersen, Wass, Kahlenberg
Coach: Morten Olsen
Portugal: Rui Patrício; Fábio Coentrão, Pepe, Bruno Alves, João Pereira; João Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles (Varela 84); Ronaldo, Heldér Postiga (Nélson Oliveira 64), Nani (Rolando 89)
Substitutes: Eduardo, Beto, Custódio, Hugo Almeida, Quaresma, Ricardo Costa, Rúben Micael, Miguel Lopes, Hugo Viana
Coach: Paulo Bento
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland)
Man of the Match: Pepe (Portugal)