Substitute Silvestre Varela fired home an 87th minute winner to give profligate Portugal a 3-2 victory over Denmark in Group B on Wednesday to keep alive the qualifying hopes of the 2004 Euro finalists.
Portugal appeared they would pay the price after Cristiano Ronaldo missed two easy chances, including one that would have put Portugal 3-1 ahead late in the second half. Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner equalised soon after the miss with his second headed goal in the 79th minute, before Varela ensured the lucky escape.
Both teams have three points each and can hope to qualify. Portugal face the Netherlands in their final game while the Danes face an equally daunting prospect as they will take on Germany. Portugal, having lost 1-0 against tournament favourites Germany in their opening match, weathered initial attacks from the Danes, who had shocked the Netherlands 1-0.The Danes, alive to the threat of Nani on the right flank and Cristiano Ronaldo on the left, tightly marked them.
Portugal, having scored just once in their previous four games, gradually came alive as Ronaldo, off-colour against Germany, and Nani gave momentum, which led to the 24th minute goal.
Pushed to the brink
The Denmark defence somehow kept out a long freekick but conceded a corner on the left. In a clever set-piece, Joao Moutinho floated the kick to the near post where Real Madrid defender Pepe, whose kick against Germany bounced on the line off the crossbar, sent a glancing header past the flailing Stephan Andersen.
Ronaldo’s searing runs kept the Danish defence under pressure, but striker Helder Postiga again looked off-colour, missing at least good excellent openings in the first half hour. The surprise 1992 winners were once again beaten in the 35th minute.
Fabio Coentrao’s leftwing run and cross landed at Nani’s feet and he neatly laid it on for Postiga, who neatly turned it home.
But Morten Olsen’s side made it 1-2 at half-time after Michael Krohn-Dehli headed back a lob nicely for Nicklas Bendtner to head home from close.
Denmark’s speedy winger Dennis Rommedahl limped off with 30 minutes still to play. But the Danes began to closely mark their opponents and gained more possession.
Portugal almost paid the price after Ronaldo missed an easy chance and two minutes later Bendtner rose at the far post to head in. But Varela’s lucky strike off a counter somehow keeps Portugal afloat.