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Portugal left it very late, but eventually scored the winner to grab a much-needed victory over Denmark in Lviv to grab their first points of Euro 2012 and give themselves a fighting chance of qualifying into the knockout rounds. They looked to be heading for a comfortable win in the first period after strikes from Pepe and Helder Postiga gave them a two-goal cushion. Denmark, however, were in no mood to leave without a point to show for their efforts, and incredibly scored twice on either side of halftime through Nicklas Bendtner to bring the score back on level terms. While Cristiano Ronaldo squandered a number of great chances for Portugal, it was substitute Silvestre Varela who turned hero for the night, hitting a screamer in the 87th minute to give Portugal a 3-2 win and as a result all three points, in turn helping them join Denmark and Germany on top of Group B.
Denmark manager Morten Olsen kept an unchanged side from their first fixture of the tournament, and understandably so after their impressive victory against the mighty Dutch. Nicklas Bendtner led the line on his own again for the Danes, with highly-rated starlet Christian Eriksen, Dennis Rommedahl and goalscorer from the previous game Michael Krohn-Dehli forming the supply line for the Arsenal man. Niki Zimling and William Kvist formed the partnership in the centre of midfield, with Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer playing in tandem behind them at centre-half. Simon Poulsen and Lars Jacobsen flanked them on the wings, with Stephan Anderson rewarded for his clean sheet against Netherlands with another start ahead of Anders Lindegaard and Kasper Schmeichel.
Despite various reports suggesting that Cristiano Ronaldo stormed out of training yesterday following a bust-up with manager Paulo Bento, the Portuguese star man made the starting line-up in a wing role, with former Manchester United teammate Nani partnering him in support of Helder Postiga. Miguel Veloso continued in his holding midfield role, with Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho holding more advanced roles in the centre of the park. Real Madrid duo Pepe and Fabio Coentrao formed a part of the Portuguese back four, the former partnering Bruno Alves at centre-half, Joao Pereira pitched out on the right flank.
Chasing a sixth straight competitive win and qualification to the knockout rounds, Denmark went straight on the offensive from the word go, with an Eriksen strike from inside the box blocked off well by Pepe. A flurry of corners followed for the Danes, but nothing much came of it, with the Portuguese backline holding strong in their attempts to hold onto their clean sheet.
Portugal did get into the game slowly, and had a shot by Postiga from a Veloso freekick on 23 minutes deflected wide off a Denmark body. They were more successful from the resultant corner however, with Pepe making a dart for the near post before powering a brilliant header from the setpiece between the near post and Andersen, into the back of the net to give Bento's side the lead.
The goal seemed to give Portugal a boost, with Ronaldo in specific looking a lot brighter and taking the game to the Danes more. It was Nani however whose brilliant work led to his side's second goal of the night, the 25-year old playing a brilliant low ball from the right for Postiga, who in turn timed his run to the near post perfectly and steered the ball into the roof of the net past Andersen to double Portugal's advantage.
The Danes however showed more of their brilliant fighting spirit soon afterwards, and with five minutes left in the half got a goal back through their own centre forward Nicklas Bendtner. It all came out of a good delivery from Poulsen down the right flank, the cross evading everyone but Krohn-Dehli at the far post, the winger playing a perfectly cushioned header back across the face of goal for Bendtner to head into an empty net.
Portugal almost regained their two goal lead late in the half when the Nani-Postiga combination worked to good effect again, the latter's header saved this time by Andersen but pushed back into the path of Ronaldo. The talismanic forward however could not capitalise on the opportunity, with a Danish body on hand to hack it clear.
He had another opportunity six minutes after the restart, but again hit an abysmally poor shot for his standards after running through on goal, directing his attempt straight Andersen, with the Denmark contingent breathing a huge collective sigh of relief.
The Danes soon came close to finding their equaliser as well, with Kvist desperately unlucky not to find the corner of the net with a splendid strike from range that fizzed past Rui Patricio's upright with the custodian well and truly beaten.
Ronaldo and Nani continued being heavily involved in Portugal's attacking movement, with the former once again showing none of the form that helped him score 60 goals in the previous club season, appallingly missing another sitter that could have finished the game as a contest. Again, it was Nani's brilliant first-time pass that layed it on a plate for Ronaldo, but the Real Madrid man somehow managed to drag his finish wide of the target after being left all alone with only the keeper to beat.
He, as well as his side, were punished for that bit of profligacy, as Bendtner towered over the Portuguese backline to head Jacobsen's cross at the far post into the net past Patricio just a couple of minutes later, the keeper unable to keep it out despite getting his fingertips to the ball.
Ronaldo incredibly was being afforded acres of space in the Danish half time and again, with Jacobsen and Agger needing to dive-in with last-ditch challenges to deflect the ball away from the winger just as he was about to take aim.
His teammates, however, for once were the ones pulling him of the mire, as substitute Silvestre Varela scored the winner within moments of coming on for Meireles, helping Portugal regain their lead with three minutes remaining. The winger rather fortuitously got a second bite of the cherry after miskicking with his left foot, but made no mistake with his right, smacking an unstoppable strike past Andersen into the net from 20 yards out, sparking huge celebrations among the Portuguese camp.
Danish substitute Lasse SchÃ¶ne had one late chance to salvage a point for his side, but lifted his finish from inside the area miles over, helping Portugal complete a dramatic 3-2 win and raise their hopes of qualifying out of Group B.
Denmark (4-2-3-1) - Stephan Andersen, Simon Kjaer, Lars Jacobsen, Daniel Agger, Simon Poulsen,William Kvist, Niki Zimling (Poulsen 16'), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Schone 90'), Christian Eriksen, Dennis Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 60'), Nicklas Bendtner
Portugal (4-3-3) - Rui Patricio,Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Raul Meireles (Varela 84'), Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Nani (Rolando 89'), Helder Postiga (Oliviera 64'), Cristiano Ronaldo
Final Scoreline: Denmark 2 - 3 Portugal (Pepe 24', Postiga 36', Bendtner 41', 80', Varela 87')
File Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel
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