Denmark survived a sustained assault by Netherlands to emerge with a 1-0 victory in their opening Euro 2012 Group B game on Saturday thanks to a first-half goal by Michael Krohn-Dehli and some poor Dutch finishing. By Simon Evans.
Krohn-Dehli cut in from the left to surprise keeper Maarten Stekelenburg with a low shot through his legs after 24 minutes in a rare Danish attack, while Dutch winger Arjen Robben hit a post after 37 in one of many chances for his side.
“We created an improbable number of chances but if you fail to finish than this happens,” Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk told NOS-TV. “Before the Danes scored they never came close to our goal.”
Dutch captain Mark van Bommel added: “I don’t know if you can call this bad luck when you play like this and create so much chances. We can’t blame one player as four or five of our guys appeared in scoring positions.”
The defeat leaves highly-fancied Netherlands needing positive results against Germany and Portugal, who play later on Saturday, in what is a very tough section.
The 2010 World Cup runners-up dominated from the outset, smartly working the ball through midfield and creating openings around a static Danish defence but they struggled to turn opportunities into shots on goal.
Robin Van Persie, who endured a difficult evening, set the tone in the seventh minute when Robben found him with an incisive pass but the striker screwed his shot wide.
Robben was more accurate with his effort nine minutes later with a low left foot shot but Danish goalkeeper Stephan Andersen got down well to save.
Van Persie produced a trademark turn to create space for a shot in the 23rd minute but his off-target effort was far from his usual high standards.
The Danes had looked disjointed and ineffective in midfield but they grabbed the lead against the run of play.
Left back Simon Poulsen raced down the wing and pulled the ball back into the path of Krohn-Dehli, who skipped past John Heitinga and fired into the net.
That prompted a wave of Dutch attacks but apart from when Robben hit the post, after collecting a poor clearance from Andersen, they ended in wasteful off-target efforts.
Krohn-Dehli threatened again just before the break with another low shot – a reminder to the Dutch that they could not throw caution totally to the wind in the second half.
Nonetheless they had four good chances in the opening 10 minutes after the break but their frustration was encapsulated by Van Persie losing his balance and falling over after being put through by the enterprising Wesley Schneider.
Again, Krohn-Dehli responded with a sharp shot on target and it was no surprise when in the 71st minute Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk introduced striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the top scorer in both Euro qualifying and last season’s Bundesliga.
But the change had little impact on what was a disappointing start for the Dutch and a night to remember for Denmark.
While the Dutch have the quality to achieve that, their lack of sharpness in front of goal will need to be addressed.
“Now it is clear we have to beat Germany,” said Van Marwijk. “We showed that we can play good football and create chances, while we proved in the past that we can beat Germany.” DM
Photo: Daniel Agger of Denmark (L) fights for the ball with Robin van Persie of Netherlands during their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv, June 9, 2012. REUTERS/Felix Ordonez
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