Panico strikes twice to give Italy winning start

Two goals from Patrizia Panico swept Italy to victory in their opening game of the UEFA European Women’s Championship.

Two goals from Patrizia Panico swept Italy to a 2-1 victory in their opening game of the UEFA European Women’s Championship. The quality of her early strike alone made the Italians worthy winners of this Group B tussle at the Waldstadion in Aalen, but Denmark pushed them all the way.

Denmark's goalkeeper Heide Johansen beats Italy's goalscorer Patrizia Panico to the ball during their Group B match (©EPA)

Resolute at the back and well served in midfield by the commanding Federica D’Astolfo, Italy will be delighted by this win that puts them on the way to going one step further than they manged in both 1993 and 1997 when they finished as runners-up. Yet it was in attack that Italy carried most weight and the triangle involving Panico, Tatiana Zorri and Rita Guarino proved devastating.

Delightful pass
Zorri had already given notice of her sense of the killer pass and the ball she played over the top to Panico with 12 minutes gone was a delight. Out came Heidi Johansen, but the execution from the centre-forward was expertly judged as she looped the ball over the young Danish goalkeeper.

Three more chances
The Ruco Line Lazio striker could well have scored on three other occasions before the break, shooting just wide after a mistake by Katrine Pedersen and then denied by Johansen’s fine stop.

Too little too late
Panico’s second arrived in the 72nd minute with a header following a cross from the talented Zorri. Three minutes later substitute Julie Rydahl Bukh pulled on back for Denmark from a corner but it was not enough.

Plenty of possession
Denmark enjoyed plenty of possession but could not summon the attacking riches that the opposition always had up their sleeve. The Danish play lacked a little finesse at crucial moments, though they never gave up trying to get back into the game.

Flowing move
Leading marksman Gitte Krogh was unable to find the positions to make use of her goalscoring ability and often found herself setting up attacks instead. She was heavily involved just past the hour in a flowing right-wing move but in front of goal Christina Bonde, who otherwise showed plenty of nice touches, sliced her effort too high.

Second goal
Not long after this Italy went two ahead when Zorri was set free out wide. Johansen was left stranded metres out of her goal, and although the cross gave Panico some work to do she deftly steered her header into the vacant net.

Ruck of players
Three minutes later and Denmark were back in the tie when, following a corner down the right, substitute Julie Rydahl Bukh, who had only been on the field for seven minutes, headed home amid a ruck of players. Krogh had a late attempt direct from a free-kick, but the Italian captain Giorgia Brenzan got down well to make the save.

Player of the match: Patrizia Panico (Italy)