Denmark 2011 – Day Three Review

Goals from Fabian Frei and Innocent Emeghara helped Switzerland take a big step towards the semi-finals of the UEFA under-21 Championships. Before either side had a chance to settle, Frei put Switzerland into an opening minute lead on their way to a 2-0 win. The rampaging midfielder was put clear of the napping Iceland defence by Xherdan Shaqiri and struck his shot with real venom.

With the lead, Switzerland were allowed to control the game and dictate the pace. Their technical superiority saw them passing the ball around Iceland’s midfield and they tested Iceland’s goal on a number of occasions. Shaqiri, Mario Gavranovic and Innocent Emeghara all went close to beating Haraldur Bjornsson before the latter added the second goal with just five minutes left in the first half. Bjornsson did get a foot to Emeghara’s strike but it was hit with enough power to see it loop over the line.

In the second period, Iceland didn’t play like a team fighting for their tournament survival. They allowed the Swiss players to be far too comfortable on the ball and rarely mounted any sustained pressure. The Switzerland defence were never rattled and though Bjarni Vidarsson, Rurik Gislason and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson tested Yann Sommer, a comeback never looked on the cards.

Iceland aren’t completely out of the tournament – thanks to the result in the evening game – but they will need to be vastly improved in their final game if they are to sneak into the final four.

In the day’s second match, Denmark came back from a goal down to remain in contention for a semi-final spot from Group A. Dmitri Baga silenced the partisan Aarhus Stadion crowd in the twentieth minute, rounding Mikkel Andersen and sliding the ball into net, although Belarus were pegged back just two minutes later.

Mikhail Sivakov was punished for a push in the area and Christian Eriksen dispatched the resulting penalty at the second time of asking. His initial spot kick had been saved by Alexsandr Gutor, but the Ajax playmaker pounced on the rebound to send the sides in level at half-time.

The Danish were much the better side throughout the second half and were well worth the spectacular second goal that won them the game in the 72nd minute. Nicolai Jorgensen, the winner of the penalty, skipped past two defenders and struck a glorious curling shot from 25 yards.

Having lost the lead, Belarus were unable to muster the same level of performance that had seen them effortlessly beat Iceland 2-0 in the tournament’s opening game. They huffed and puffed for the final twenty minutes, but were unable to retain any meaningful possession. Gutor had just as busy a time as his Danish counterpart in the final minutes. Belarus tried to manufacture an equaliser to save the game and in turn left themselves at risk to a quick break and a third goal for the host nation.

As it is, Group A remains wide open, with all four teams still able to reach the knock-out stages of the tournament.

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