Portugal edge past Denmark, seal Euro qualification
A draw would have been enough to see Portugal seal its place in next summer’s tournament but Joao Moutinho’s first international goal in four years secured all three points. Joao Moutinho fired Portugal to a 1-0 win over Denmark in Braga to help his side seal qualification for Euro 2016.
The hosts knew that a draw would be enough to book their ticket for next year’s showpiece in France, but they did not take any chances and bagged the full three points instead. Morten Olsen’s men looked dangerous in the opening 45 minutes, with Nicklas Bendtner and Martin Braithwaite in particular causing the Portugal defense problems, but their finishing let them down.
Portugal was unlucky when Nani hit the crossbar with a fine header in the closing stages of the first half. Bendtner also hit the woodwork after the interval, but it was all Portugal from there on. Kasper Schmeichel pulled off a number of fine saves though, before Moutinho eventually made the difference.
Denmark had the first chance of the match when Braithwaite sent in a dangerous cross from the left toward Bendtner, but goalkeeper Rui Patricio was alert and claimed the ball before the Wolfsburg striker could get to it. Bernardo Silva looked lively for Portugal in the opening stages of the game and it was the Monaco star who set up Cristiano Ronaldo in the seventh minute of play, yet the Real Madrid attacker’s left-footed shot lacked the power to worry Schmeichel. The away side got a fine chance to go ahead after a quick counterattack in the 15th minute. Braithwaite found Bendtner with an intelligent through ball, only for the former Arsenal forward to blast his shot over the bar, ignoring the unmarked Christian Eriksen to his left.
Portugal felt it should have been awarded a penalty midway through the first half when Ronaldo went down inside the area, but the referee was not interested and waved play on. Fernando Santos’ men nearly got their goal in the 39th minute after some good work from Moutinho. The midfielder waited for the right moment before sending in a good cross toward Nani, the Fenerbahce winger’s header hitting the crossbar before going out for a goal kick.
The Danes had a penalty shout of their own turned down in the dying minutes of the first half after Cedric Soares seemingly handled the ball inside his own box. Bendtner continued to cause the Portugal defense all sorts of trouble and came close to breaking the deadlock just seconds after the restart, with the former Arsenal man’s volley hitting the upright before bouncing out of play.
Nani, meanwhile, continued to be the hosts’ main dangerman and had a fine shot saved by Schmeichel, before Cedric aimed just wide after the Denmark goalkeeper failed to hold on to a cross from the right. Schmeichel was again called into action at the hour mark, with the Leicester City man first denying Ronaldo, only to then keep out Tiago’s effort, too.
However, there was no denying Moutinho in the 66th minute. The midfielder collected a cleared cross at the edge of the area, danced past two opponents and hit the top corner with a sublime finish. Bernardo should have put the match to bed through some fine individual skill, with the attacking midfielder aiming wide from inside the area as it remained 1-0.
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