Portugal Euro 2012: Three vital points and one stroppy diva – Denmark 2-3 Portugal
Substitute Silvestre Varela’s late strike helped Portugal secure three vital points in their second Euro 2012 group match.
Pepe’s thumping near-post header put Portugal ahead, before Helder Postiga smashed in a close-range effort.
But two headed goals from striker Nicklas Bendtner brought the Danes level and looked set to leave Paulo Bento’s men with an uphill task to advance from Group B.
Then with three minutes left, Varela’s right-foot shot won it for Portugal.
It gave Portugal a lifeline in the tournament as they knew they needed to secure points if they were to make it any further in the competition. Although the game should have been more comfortable as Cristiano Ronaldo missed a bag full of easy chances, and made his frustration clear.
Both teams named unchanged sides for this match meaning Helder Postiga remained up front for Portugal despite only producing one shot in the game against Germany - which was off target. Denmark had a more formidable front man, in the shape of Nicklas Bendtner, who had scored in all four games he had played against Portugal.
Portugal were first to find their rhythm in the game but it was Denmark who put on the early pressure through a flurry of corners, the best falling nicely for Christian Erikson but his shot was blocked by Pepe. However Portugal looked threatening on the break with Nani making a darting run into the penalty area in the eleventh minute before eventually being dispossessed. A minute later Portugal floated two good crosses into the Denmark penalty area in quick succession but Stephen Anderson was on hand to punch away.
Denmark were forced to make an early substitution in the fifteenth minute when central midfielder Nikki Zimling went down injured and was replaced by Jakob Poulson.
The Ronaldo show
Now Portugal were piling on the pressure with Raul Meireles trying a shot from distance, which broke for Ronaldo who had a pop but dragged his shot well wide. Portugal’s captain looked ruefully at the ground, perhaps looking for a divot to blame for his dismal effort. Three minutes later Portugal won a free-kick left of the goal which Ronaldo decided to take, despite the tightness of the angle. However, despite an impressive run-up, CR7 whipped the ball high and wide of the goal - and pouted, as you do.
Those missed chances we duly forgot about when Portugal found themselves one up in the 24th minute. An inswinging corner was drilled in by Joao Moutinho and met at the near-post by PEPE who neatly headed home.
Denmark were being run out of the game, Eriksen, Dennis Rommedahl and Nicklas Bendtner had hardly had a kick between them, and Portugal were growing in confidence, Helger Postiga steamed into the Danish penalty area before having the ball poked away from him at the crucial moment. Although one Portuguese player seemed to be lacking in confidence, Ronaldo, as he burst past Simon Kjaer to the edge of the penalty area and instead of trying a shot, the right option, he played the ball through to Helder Postiga, the wrong option, who overhit his attempt. on goal
Ronaldo was again centre stage for the wrong reason three minutes later when Jacobcen brought him down just outside the penalty area conceding a Portuguese free-kick. Miguel Velosa presented the ball to Ronaldo who kissed it, before placing it on the ground. Although the whole in-no-way preposterous free-kick routine was a complete waste of time as he booted the ball into the wall, watched as it cannoned over the crossbar and stared into the heavens looking very hurt indeed.
The great goal show
Although again that miss didn’t matter when a minute later Portugal were 2-0 up on 26 minutes, courtesy of a bit of slack defending by Denmark. Nani was allowed all the time in the world to steady himself and picked out POSTIGA in space who thumped into the roof of the net.
But Denmark didn’t give up and five minutes later they had pulled a goal back in sensational style. NICKLAS BENDTNER got on the end of a cushioned header across the face of goal from Krohn-Dehli to head into a gaping net from approximately one inch out.
Portugal tried again to get Ronaldo’s name on the score-sheet a minute before half-time but once again the Real Madrid striker couldn’t find the target.
HALF-TIME: Denmark 1-2 Portugal
It would come as no surprise to hear that just after the break Portugal had a clear-cut chance to make it 3-1 but the opportunity was wasted by…Ronaldo. Postiga played Ronaldo through on goal, one-on-one with Anderson but the goalkeeper charged off the line and Ronaldo shot straight at him from the edge of the penalty area.
Portugal players then decided not to pass to Ronaldo anymore, even when he was in a great position. Postinga gained procession on the edge of the final third and set off towards goal but instead of playing Ronaldo in on goal he decided to go it alone and was robbed of possession by Daniel Agger.
The Danish domination
On the 60th minute Denmark were forced to make another substitute when Dennis Rommedahl stretched and pulled up with what looked like a torn hamstring. He was replaced by Tobias Mikkelsen. Portugal also made a change with Helder Postiga switched Nelson Oliveira.
As the minutes ticked by Denmark were beginning to dominate the game and in the 65th minute Mikkelsen whipped in a vicious, waist-high cross which was turned onto the crossbar by Pepe, who made some excellent defending. Bendtner then picked the ball up on the edge of the Portuguese penalty area, made room for a shot and attempted to curl the ball around two defenders but pulled the shot wide by a yard.
That pressure paid off when in the 80th minute BENDTNER was on the score-sheet again - again from a header. This time Lars Jacobsen sent in the cross from the right with Bendtner losing his man and thumped a header in off the post. Denmark had remarkably come from 2-0 down to now be level.
The Portuguese revival
Portugal responded by taking Raul Meireles off and replacing him with Silvestre Varela, and boy did it make a difference. Less than 60 seconds after he came on VARELA had stolen all three points in quite magnificent style. Coentrao went on a marauding run down the left flank and sent in a looping cross, Varela took a swing at it with his left foot and missed but a quick turn later he had another go with his right, sending the ball screaming past Andersen from 18 yards.
Just to top things off for Ronaldo he ended the night with a yellow card, for fouling Agger.
Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Meireles (Varela 84′), Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Nani (Rolando 89′), Postiga (Oliveria 64′), Ronaldo
Denmark (4-3-3): Andersen, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, Simon Poulsen, Kvist Jorgensen, Zimling (J Poulson 17′), Rommedahl (Mikkelson 60′), Eriksen, Krohn-Delhi (Schone 90′), Bendtner
Star man – Nani
This was a much better performance from Portugal. Finally they bagged some goals, which is always good, although they are still lacking in the defensive department. The game should have been wrapped up long before Denmark got any goals and it seems the Danish goal just before half-time, which came as a bit of a surprise, shock the side’s confidence. At least now there are points on the board the pressure will be off the team and hopefully in the next match the pressure will be off Ronaldo as well and he will finally show the world what he can do.
Rui Patrício – 5
This has been a thankless tournament so far for Rui Patrício. Very little work in 180 minutes up to now, but three goals conceded. No chance with the first goal, on the second Bendtner’s header was powerful and from close in but perhaps could have got a stronger hand on it to keep it out. Dealt with crosses well, making a couple of vital clearances.
Joao Pereira – 4
Started confidently both at the back and when venturing forward. However, he was caught out dawdling for Denmark’s first goal as he completely lost Krohn-Dehli. The weakest link in the Portugal defence.
Pepe - 7
The only Portugal player, along with Nani, who looked completely on top of his game. Excellent header to open the scoring but it was at the back where he truly shined. Time and time again he was in the right place at the right time to make vital interceptions, all but once, when his only mistake was punished by Bendtner. Also the first to step up and drive Portugal forward when all seemed lost at 2-2. A lion in a Selecção shirt.
Bruno Alves – 5
A rugged performance from Alves, who gave as good as he got then some more against the physically imposing Danes. Did not compromise at the back. His distribution was generally poor, and abused the long ball (although he may have been following instructions).
Fabio Coentrao – 6
Another fine performance from the Real Madrid man, albeit not reaching the heights of his brilliant display against Germany. Found it hard to contain the Danish attacks on his side in the second half, although he can rightly complain about no tracking back to help out from Ronaldo.
Miguel Veloso - 5
Very composed on the ball, Veloso is doing his reputation no harm at all in this tournament. Was the instigator of most of Portugal’s attacks, in the first half especially, and kept a calm head when others around him were losing theirs. However, tired badly in the last twenty-five minutes and was unable to hold back the Danish waves of attack.
Joao Moutinho – 6
Buzzed around as usual, making good interceptions and setting Portugal’s forward movements in motion with simple passes. Curiously played far better in the second half, when the Selecção struggled for long periods. Consistent display but not quite at the top of his game.
Raul Meireles – 5
Like Moutinho, Meireles is a player whose work rate can never be faulted. Nevertheless, his stop-start seasons and his constant swapping of positions at Liverpool and Chelsea seem to have taken away a degree of discernment when it comes to his speed of thought and execution. His two games in Ukraine so far are not two of his best in a Portugal shirt.
Ronaldo – 4
Back to the bad old days with Ronaldo as regards his performances for his country. Never appeared happy, complained at all and sundry around him. Most alarming of all, the Portugal captain seemed lacking in confidence – something most people thought Ronaldo was immune to. Two clear-cut chances spurned, the second a quite appalling miss. Provided two lovely assists for Postiga in the first half. But Postiga is not Benzema.
Helder Postiga – 5
A typical Postiga performance. Ran his heart out and scored a fine goal, but with a little more composure and speed he could have tested Denmark goalkeeper Andersen far more. Rarely looked like getting past the last man or getting a shot off when given the opportunity and frustratingly found it difficult to keep his footing.
Nani – 7
Constantly had the beating of his marker, some wonderfully incisive passing always looked Portugal’s most likely source of a goal. Killer passes to set up Postiga’s goal and what should have been the game-settling goal for Ronaldo.
Nelson Oliveira (played 26 miutes)
Again a highly positive contribution from the Benfica youngster. Asked far more questions of the Denmark back line than Postiga, and was a whisker away from combining with Ronaldo to unlock the Danish defence on several occasions.
Silvestre Varela (played 6 minutes)
Who would have thought the FC Porto winger would be such a vital player for Portugal? Varela was a little unlucky his missed chance masked an otherwise excellent contribution as a late substitute against Germany, and again today he looked lively as soon as he came on. This time he didn’t waste his chance, albeit at the second attempt, scoring the goal that keeps Portugal alive in the tournament.
Rolando (played 1 minute)
Brought on to help shore up the defence. Fortunately not tested.
The final group game against Holland on Sunday is now a must-win, and therefore a must-see.
Table as it stands: