Merete Pedersen boosted Denmark's hopes of qualification for the 2005 UEFA European Women's Championship by scoring the solitary goal in a 1-0 away defeat of Spain in Group 2 on Sunday.
Both teams enjoyed an equal share of the play during the opening exhanges with Denmark threatening from early on with several quick-fire counterattacks. Their tactics paid off when Pedersen, on her first international appearance for 18 months, latched on to a pass from Lene Jensen to fire past a helpless Elisabeth Capa just before the half-hour mark.
Spain responded with gusto and came close to levelling the scores five minutes later when Erika Vazquez Morales crashed a header against the Danish crossbar. But the Spanish team were unable to maintain their frenetic rhythm during the second half and were held in check by some solid Danish defending. The clearest chance fell to Vanessa Gimber, who tried her luck from long range but the shot posed no problems for visiting goalkeeper Tine Cederkvist.
"We got what we came here for," said Denmark coach Poul Højmose after a victory which put his team three points behind leaders Norway with a game in hand. "I am happy we won a difficult match on a day when we did not play particularly well. The victory was essential to our aim of winning the group and now we can look forward to our two next home qualifiers against Spain on 22 May and the probable decider against Norway on 27 May."
Spain remain third in Group 2 with seven points but will slip down a place if the Netherlands defeat Belgium on 25 April. With hopes of a qualifying place somewhat dimmed by the result, Spain must gain victories from their next two matches against Belgium on 2 May and the return game against the Danes three weeks later to salvage any hope of making the finals in England.
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