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Shaqiri on target as Swiss poop Danish party

Xherdan Shaqiri's goal at the start of the second half got Switzerland off to a flier in UEFA European U21 Championship Group A at the expense of host nation Denmark.

Shaqiri on target as Swiss poop Danish party
Shaqiri on target as Swiss poop Danish party ©UEFA.com

Switzerland proved the worst kind of guests as a solitary goal from the impressive Xherdan Shaqiri spoilt the opening night of the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship for hosts Denmark.

Shaqiri made the difference with an excellent individual effort after 48 minutes in Aalborg, enabling Switzerland to steal a march on both the home team and an Iceland side beaten by Belarus earlier in the day in Group A.

The talent on parade at these finals was evident from the third minute when three players capped at senior level by Switzerland combined for the first goalscoring chance. Shaqiri received a pass from Admir Mehmedi and promptly lofted a pass through for Innocent Emeghara whose instant shot was tipped over by Denmark goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen.

It was another full international, Denmark's much-touted playmaker Christian Eriksen, who fired the first salvo across the Swiss bow, driving the ball wide after a one-two with lone forward Nicki Bille Nielsen. Switzerland's pocket battleship Shaqiri then let fly from outside the box to raise the stakes in the contest between the No10s.

Eriksen, the 19-year-old from AFC Ajax, made mischief during a left-wing incursion which resulted in an opportunity for Bashkim Kadrii. Immediately at the other end Shaqiri, also 19 and similarly acquainted with European football in the colours of FC Basel 1893, drifted a shot centimetres wide.

The mock-ups of Viking longships that had featured in the tournament's opening ceremony were not only heralding regular raids from the Danes but also from Pierluigi Tami's visitors. Even in the closing moments of the first period, both Shaqiri and then Bille Nielsen, on the break, came close to scoring.

Minutes after the restart Keld Bordinggaard's side were served notice of the full scale of their assignment in what was their first competitive match in two years. Picking up possession 30 metres from goal, Shaqiri advanced inexorably forward; his low centre of gravity pulled him towards the left and into the Denmark area, from where he angled a perfect shot back across Andersen and into the net.

Perhaps the fact Switzerland were already battle-hardened following their qualifying campaign lent them a vital edge in this encounter between two exponents of the 4-2-3-1 formation. Only a last-ditch interception from Daniel Wass prevented Emeghara adding a second.

Yet in front of a 9,678 crowd in northern Jutland, the hosts were never going to lie down. From a long throw, captain Andreas Bjelland had an effort deflected wide off the body of Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer. The latter knew rather more about his next save from Bille Nielsen's header.

So the Danish resistance continued, with Wass's first-time attempt eliciting another stop from Sommer after a Nicolai Boilesen cross. Substitute Henrik Dalsgaard flashed a shot against the keeper's legs during the late siege that followed, before an offside flag denied Bille Nielsen at the death. For Denmark it just wasn't to be.