Silvestre Varela's late winner gets Portugal off the mark in Group B.
Denmark 2-3 Portugal
Wednesday 13 June
Silvestre Varela emerged from the bench to snatch a dramatic late winner for Portugal – and get his team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo off the hook.
Portugal were cruising towards their first win of Euro 2012 after two goals in the first 36 minutes had put them in control of this Group B clash with Denmark.
But Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner halved the arrears just before the interval and it looked like he might have earned Denmark a point with a second header ten minutes from the time.
A draw would have been a bitter pill for Ronaldo to swallow as the £80m superstar had missed a golden opportunity to make it 3-1 just two minutes before Bendtner equalised.
But there was Varela, just four minutes after his introduction, to smash home Portugal’s winner and leave the fate of Paulo Bento’s side in their own hands ahead of their final Group B game, against Holland, on Sunday.
Such a scenario seemed inevitable once Portugal had raced into their two-goal advantage. First Real Madrid defender Pepe planted a textbook glancing header past Stephan Andersen from a 24th-minute corner. Then former Tottenham forward Helder Postiga made it 2-0 12 minutes later when he expertly swept home Nani’s low cross at the front post.
Denmark looked dead and buried until Bendtner grabbed his first four minutes before the break to breathe new life into Morten Olsen’s side.
Bendtner was on hand to nod home from two yards out after a clever headed cross from Michael Krohn-Delhi left the Arsenal forward with a simple back-post finish.
The second half was open for both sides but the best chance fell to Ronaldo, who has scored an amazing 63 goals in all competitions this season. But he somehow prodded a tame finish wide of the post when clean through 12 minutes from time.
And his misery was compounded two minutes later when Bendtner powered a towering header past Rui Patricio for his sixth goal in five games against Portugal.
Ronaldo looked distraught, but he had Varela to thank when the substitute hit the winner three minutes from time.
The Porto striker was guilty of missing a late gilt-edge chance against Germany in Portugal’s Group B opener and he almost missed here too.
But after completely fluffing his first left-foot effort, Varela set himself once more before slamming Portugal’s winner inside the near post.
Bento’s side are now level on three points with Denmark ahead of Sunday’s fixtures.
Andersen, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, S.Poulsen, Kvist, Zimling (J.Poulsen 17), Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 60), Eriksen, Krohn-Delhi (Schone 90), Bendtner.
Substitutes not used Lindegaard, C.Poulsen, Bjelland, Okore, Silberbauer, Pedersen, Wass, Kahlenberg, Schmeichel.
Coach Morten Olsen
Patricio, Pereira, Alves, Pepe, Coentrao, Meireles (Varela 84), Veloso, Moutinho, Nani (Rolando 89), Postiga (Oliveira 64), Ronaldo.
Substitutes not used Eduardo, Custodio, Almeida, Quaresma, Costa, Micael, Lopes, Viana, Beto.
Coach Paulo Bento