Another entertaining game at this years European Championships saw Portugal grab three vital points, thanks to a late winner from Silvestre Varela at Arena Lviv.
With two first half goals from Pepe and Helder Postiga, it seemed like the Portugese were coasting to victory, but Nicklas Bendtner threatened to steal two points from Portugal with two wonderfully headed goals. It was not to be for the Danes, as the Group of death was slung wide open with Germany and the Netherlands to play later on.
As expected, Portugal, who needed a win to keep any hopes alive of progressing to the knockout stages, started off the better side. It was Nani who was the main architect of chances in the early course of the game, as his winding runs gave Simon Poulsen numerous headaches.
Denmark, who finished above Portugal in their qualifying group for these Championships, found themselves under the cosh early on. Cristiano Ronaldo was slowly starting to dictate the play and was involved in some neat interplay with Miguel Veloso and Raul Meireles, which presented itself with an opportunity for the Real Madrid poacher, but his shot from just outside the box was dragged wide.
Portugal kept pushing, and eventually found the breakthrough as Pepe converted a magnificent corner from Nani. The Manchester United winger whipped his ball in as Pepe escaped his marker with a run to meet the ball at the near post. Pundits argued that the Danish keeper Stephan Andersen could have stopped a goal, but the header was just too powerful to get anything behind it.
There was a good appetite in the Portugese attack, and they were contstantly causing Denmark problems, looking a totally different side to the one which lined up against Germany on Saturday night. And this appetite was rewarded as Postiga extended the lead with a finish we’ve come to expect with the Real Zaragoza forward.
Once again, Nani proved his worth to manager Paulo Bento, as his low cross found Postiga unmarked at the near post, and the ball was smashed past Andersen. Postiga, scoring his 20th goal for Portugal, was clearly delighted with the strike that seemed to clear daylight between themselves and the opponent.
However, Bendtner stepped up to finish off a neat move to make this interesting before half time. A clever ball into the box in the 41st minute was headed across goal by Michael Krohn-Dehli, and Bendtner had the simple task of heading into an empty goal.
The pre match talk was surrounded around Ronaldo and his influence around this Portugal team, and he was given two golden opportunities in the second half to finish the game off. Facing just Andersen on both ocassions, Ronaldo somehow scuffed his chances, placing one wide and one straight at the keeper.
Ronaldo was made to rue his glaring chances, as Bendtner grasped his 6th goal in five games against Portugal with another fabulous header, as he met Tobias Mikkelsen’s floating cross. His header was similar to Pepe’s first half effort, and despite Rui Patricio’s best efforts, the ball rebounded off the post into the goal.
With Portugal seeming to run out of ideas, on came Varela, who was a bright spark as soon as he came on the pitch. The gifted winger was a continuous threat to the Danish defence, and succeeded where Ronaldo could not, providing an incisive finish to send the Portugese faithful wild. A superb cross by Fabio Coentrao fell to the feet of Varela, who mis-kicked his first shot, before turning and smashing the ball into the bottom corner of Andersen’s net.
Portugal held on for a vital win, despite a late effort from Lasse Schone, and it certainly opened things up in Group B with just three games left in the Group.