Denmark secured the first surprise of the European Championship with a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands on Saturday in Group B.
And it was Michael Krohn-Dehli that provided the lethal finishing that the Dutch inexplicably lacked. Krohn-Dehli scored against the run of play when he picked up a loose ball close to the penalty area in the 24th minute, left two defenders standing and shot through the legs of Maarten Stekelenburg from a tight angle.
It was something Premier League top scorer Robin van Persie never got close to as he came to symbolize Dutch futility with a couple of bad mistakes. Denmark goalkeeper Stephan Andersen made several clutch saves to secure the most important Danish victory over the Netherlands since the Euro 1992 semifinals.
"It was the only dangerous action of Denmark," Netherlands captain Mark van Bommel said. "I'm speechless."
The Dutch came closest to scoring when Andersen gave away the ball to Arjen Robben just outside the area in the 36th minute, but the Bayern Munich winger curled his left-footer onto the far post and out of danger.
"Five of us had chances," Van Bommel said.
The frustration came to symbolize the sticky night in eastern Ukraine and leaves the World Cup runners-up with two clutch games against top-10 ranked teams, Germany and Portugal. Late in the match, a penalty appeal for handball was denied when the Dutch were running out of time as Lars Jacobsen appeared to touch the ball with his upper arm in the box. Denmark, seen as an outsider in the toughest group of the championship, can already take a huge step to the quarterfinals by beating Portugal in their second game.
"We know the Dutch; they can be ver y dominating," Denmark coach Morten Olsen said. "If you get scared of them, they play really good football. I think we played them in the right way."
From the start, the tactics of the match were laid out for all 35,932 fans at the Metalist Stadium. The Dutch started with furious attacking and the Danes counted on a solid attack and a dose of luck to keep out of danger. The creative skills of Robben, Van Persie and Ibrahim Afellay created plenty of chances, but finishing was off and Andersen would not budge. With one lethal counter, Krohn-Dehli showed some of Europe's best players how it should be done with his well-taken strike.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk even had to come to the sideline to shout and wave his players forward. And on a difficult day, luck was not with the Dutch .
Van Marwijk's decision to pick Van Persie over Bundesliga top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came into sharp focus. Two minutes from halftime, Wesley Sneijder set up the Arsenal striker in the center with only the goalkeeper to beat. Uncharacteristically, Van Persie had a bad first touch and shot at the goalkeeper. Early in the second half, too, he inexplicably mis-stepped on another great chance for goal as the Dutch pushed forward from the second half whistle.
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