Portugal in Group of Death contention as ruthless Germany dispatch Dutch
The first game of the day saw Portugal climb back into Group B contention in Lviv, after beating Denmark 3-2 in a thrilling encounter.
In an action-packed first-half the Danes started brightly and forced a succession of early corners. Portugal though grew into the game and opened their Euro 2012 account through Pepe on 24 minutes. The defender rose at the near post to head his side in front by using the pace on a deliciously whipped corner.
Portugal turned the screw and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose initial involvement had been sporadic and wasteful, began to threaten more consistently. Paulo Bento’s side doubled their lead through Helder Postiga when the forward finished from close range after being beautifully played in by Nani.
Denmark Pulled one back five minutes before the break when Nicklas Bendtner, who looked offside when the ball was played forward, finished after a header across goal by Michael Krohn-Delhi.
Morten Olsen’s side controlled possession in the second half but the Portuguese defence stood firm with chances few and far between. Then 12 minutes from time, came two pivotal moments. First Ronaldo found himself in acres of space in front of goal but instead of sealing the game the Real Madrid star shot horribly wide. A minute later Portugal paid the price as Bendtner bagged his second and the equaliser. The forward showed good movement to peel away from his marker and meet a deep cross with a powerful header.
Just when it looked like Portugal had thrown away the victory, Bento introduced Silvestre Varela and with three minutes left on the clock, the Porto midfielder miss-kicked a shot and then with his second bite at the cherry, lashed the ball into the net. The goal broke Danish hearts but it capped a superb game of football.
Later, the Group of Death’s most mouth-watering encounter between bitter rivals Holland and Germany finished in a 2-1 win for Joachim Low’s side.
The Dutch started well against the three-time winners and created a couple of half chances for Robin Van Persie. Although the Holland were edging the contest, it was a fairly open game and with 23 minutes on the clock it was Bastian Schweinsteiger who was the one to capitalise on the space. From a central position he was able to pick out goal machine Mario Gomez, whose neat turn and finish put the Germans ahead, somewhat against the run of play.
The chances began to come thick and fast for Germany with Holger Badstuber heading straight at Maarten Stekelenburg. Minutes later though, Gomez rattled in his third goal of the tournament with a shot that left the keeper floundering. A superb finish from a red-hot forward who had again been played in by Schweinsteiger. The playmaker had been finding an alarming amount of room despite the Dutch playing with two holding midfielders and had ruthlessly exploited it.
Bert Van Marwijk’s changes at the interval suggested an intention to go for broke with both Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart entering the fray. As a result even more space developed in front of Holland’s back four and Mats Hummels was allowed to waltz from centre-back all the way to the Dutch penalty spot only to be denied by Stekelenburg.
With Germany in complete control Holland needed something from one of their stars and in the 73rd minute, Van Persie sparked the game to life scoring a superb individual effort. The Arsenal man, save for one drive which brought the best from Manuel Neuer, had largely been disappointing but his fierce strike into the bottom corner gave his side a lifeline. The momentum was short lived however as Germany bolstered the midfield and closed out the game in relative comfort.
The result means Germany sit top of the group while Holland must win and then look to the other result for a chance to sneak through on goal difference. Portugal meanwhile have given themselves a great chance and will be looking to seal progress when the meet the demoralised Dutch. Denmark continue to compete well in the Group of Death but face Germany in their final fixture.