Denmark 2-1 Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo strike not enough as Nicklas Bendtner condemns Portuguese to Euro 2012 play-offs
The hosts were never really troubled in Copenhagen, and wrest top spot in Group H from Paulo Bento's men to qualify automatically for next summer's showpiece in Poland and Ukraine
By Keeghann Sinanan
Denmark recorded a comfortable 2-1 home win over Portugal in their final qualifying game to seal top spot in Group H and force the visitors into the Euro 2012 play-offs.
Michael Krohn-Dehli and Nicklas Bendtner struck the decisive goals for the hosts, who earn automatic entry into the tournament next summer, despite a superb free-kick from Cristiano Ronaldo in stoppage time.
Denmark were quick off the mark, and had a goal questionably disallowed four minutes in, when referee Nicola Rizzoli ruled that there was an infringement in the area on a set-piece opportunity that was bundled home.
However, the hosts were rewarded for their strong start in the 13th minute with a deflected effort by Krohn-Dehli. The Brondby winger let fly from just inside the area, and his effort nicked off Rolando before nestling into the back of the net.
The tempo of the game died down shortly after, with a series of sloppy passes halting the Portugese attack on more than a few occasions.
Denmark threatened mainly from set-pieces, while Ronaldo and Carlos Martins sent efforts into the arms of Thomas Sorensen. The Stoke keeper also had to be alert to palm away a dangerous cutback from a quick free-kick as the first-half fizzled out.
Portugal had a chance 10 minutes after the restart when Nani split two Denmark defenders and squared for the unmarked Martins at the edge of the box, but the Benfica man’s shot was saved by Sorensen with relative ease.
Paulo Bento’s men could not find a way past the Danish rearguard, and were made to pay for their inefficiency when the hosts grabbed a second with a well executed move.
Christian Eriksen released Dennis Rommedahl with a fantastic through-ball, and the veteran winger squared for Bendtner, who finished from inside the six-yard area.
Denmark amost added another in the 73rd minute after another impressive charge on the counter-attack. Eriksen showed brilliant quick feet and awareness to first link with Krohn-Dehli then create space for himself in the area, but his finish at the end of the move bent wide of the far post.
Ten minutes later, Bendtner had a glorious chance for a second, but Rui Patricio tipped over his header from point-blank range.
Portugal managed to pull a goal back two minutes into injury time with an outstanding free-kick from Ronaldo. The Real Madrid man sent a trademark 25-yard effort into the top corner, but the goal ultimately came too late for the visitors to rescue anything from the match.
Denmark finish Group H on 19 points, while Portugal end on 16 points, and must now win a two-legged play-off to determine whether they will be in Poland and Ukraine next summer.
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