Sunday 21 January 2018

Denmark stun wasteful Dutch

Holland 0 Denmark 1

Paul Wilson in Kharkiv

Denmark supplied the first shock of Euro 2012 with a convincing win over a surprisingly passive Holland, who will need to sort out their supply line to Robin van Persie if they are to have any chance against Portugal or Germany, let alone justify their billing among the favourites for the tournament.

The Danes were rarely dominant but they did enough to deserve a win, scoring a quality goal through Michael Krohn-Dehli and defending well, in addition to occasionally threatening at least one more. Much was made of Holland's defensive worries in the build-up but it was the midfield that looked weak here, never linking effectively with lone striker Van Persie, who for most of the game had only Wesley Sneijder to look to for the ball.

Holland created all the early chances, with Ibrahim Afellay missing narrowly a couple of times, Van Persie putting a shot wide from Arjen Robben's cut-back and then managing to find Sneijder with a cross that might have produced a goal had the Arsenal striker been on the receiving rather than supplying end.

The Dutch had a great chance to take the lead midway through the first half when neat work by John Heitinga then Mark van Bommel played Robben in behind the Denmark defence, only for the winger to try and square unselfishly when shooting might have been a better option. Denmark were doubling up on Robben but he still managed to find Van Persie with a neat reverse pass a few minutes later, for a shot on the turn that rolled the wrong side of a post.

So far so predictable but, completely against the run of play, Denmark livened up the proceedings in the 24th minute with an excellent opening goal. Picking up a rebound from a strong Simon Poulsen run down the left, Krohn-Delhi left Ron Vlaar standing and slipped a confident shot under Dutch 'keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Going ahead so emboldened the Danes that they began to play more of the game in the Dutch half, though when Holland recovered their composure they could easily have equalised when Robben struck a post from the edge of the area.

Sneijder found Van Persie in front of goal two minutes from the interval only for a heavy first touch to allow Stephan Andersen to make a save. One of Holland's problems was not bringing Van Persie into the game enough, yet when Sneijder did find him with a measured through-ball at the start of the second half, he managed to fall over himself.

He did better with his next attempt seconds later, forcing a save for Andersen as the Dutch tried to impose themselves more, and the Denmark goalkeeper had to make an even smarter save when Van Bommel hit a shot on target from just outside the area. Holland searched for an equaliser but, just as in the first half, Poulsen almost sprang another surprise with a deft run to the left-hand byline, Afellay having to look sharp to prevent his cross providing Lars Jacobsen with an open goal.

Holland's attacks became just a little more frantic, with Robben putting a header well wide from a position where he should have at least hit the target. Bert van Marwijk beefed up his attack with Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the final 20 minutes, a bold move but one which many Dutch fans would say should have been made earlier.

Sneijder immediately found Huntelaar with an immaculate flicked through ball, but Andersen was equally quick to come off his line and smother. Huntelaar had an appeal for a handball in the area turned down in the last minute, but the referee shook his head and the Dutch crept away defeated.


Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Van Der Wiel (Kuyt 84), Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems, Van Bommel, N De Jong (Van der Vaart 71), Robben, Sneijder, Afellay (Huntelaar 71), Van Persie.

Denmark: Andersen, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, Simon Poulsen, Kvist Jorgensen, Zimling, Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 83), Eriksen (Schone 74), Krohn-Delhi, Bendtner.

Referee: D Skomina (Slovenia)

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