Monday 18 December 2017

Portugal put plucky Danes down despite Ronaldo nightmare

Denmark 2 Portugal 3 Luke Edwards

He looked like Cristiano Ronaldo, he sounded like Cristiano Ronaldo, he ran like Cristiano Ronaldo, he even strutted and stropped like Cristiano Ronaldo. But he did not play anything like him.

So often the superstar match winner for Portugal, Ronaldo became a burden for normally grateful team-mates to bear as Portugal came perilously close to throwing away victory against Denmark.

Remarkably for someone so good, so talented and apparently so sure of his brilliance, Ronaldo even looked short on confidence, nervous and unsure at the crucial moment. He suffered badly, but Portugal almost suffered more.

Having cruised into a two-goal lead with goals from Pepe and Helder Postiga, Portugal were pegged back by two headers from Nicklas Bendtner, who made it six goals in five games against his favourite opposition.

The second came with just 10 minutes left to play and appeared to have comprehensively punished Ronaldo's terrible finishing.

Twice he was sent clear with just the goalkeeper to beat and twice he drew gasps when he missed, especially after Nani put him in acres of space in the 78th minute only for the Real Madrid star to shoot wastefully wide.

Moments later, Bendtner equalised with an excellent far post header.

Thankfully for Portugal, Denmark, who scored with their only clear chance in the first half when Jacob Poulson's flighted pass found Michael Krohn-Delhi, who in turn found Bendtner, switched off.

Shaky at the back all game, Denmark allowed substitute Silvestre Varela to follow up his first blocked shot with a second and the ball squeezed inside the post. Ronaldo did not celebrate, instead he sunk to the floor and waited for the others to finish. For once, they really did not need him.

"I do not get the impression he is feeling the pressure," said Portugal's manager Paulo Bento. "He has the same pressure as all the players that want to contribute to the game.

"He was in some difficult situations, but from our point of view he has showed two very good games and I am very certain all of us are happy."

Denmark boss Martin Olsen added: "It's a horrible feeling to lose a game so late like that, but that is the game we play." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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