Portugal kept their Euro 2012 hopes alive, and Group B open, with a nail-biting win over Denmark in their second game - an 87th minute goal was enough for them to scrape through.
Despite having to win, Portugal did not look any more effective in the opening 20 minutes than they were in the first half against Germany. But then a set-piece goal in the 24th minute opened the game up for them.
A corner found defender Pepe at the near post, where he glanced a great header in, though Denmark's defense looked very fallible as Daniel Agger failed to pick up the Real Madrid defender. The goal immediately loosened an initially cagey game, and star midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo increasingly found the space to run at defenders and win free-kicks.
But the world's most expensive footballer was not responsible when Portugal doubled the lead in the 36th minute. A cross from out wide swept clean through the Danish penalty area, and again the defense was absent as Nani had all the time in the world to pick out the run of Helder Postiga, who was closing in on the six-yard box.
The striker, much vilified by the Portuguese press after the Germany game, showed he still had more than enough pace to beat Simon Kjaer to the ball, and he slammed it high enough to give Danish goalkeeper Stephan Andersen no chance.
But the Portuguese defense seemed to have been taking lessons from their opposite numbers. Only five minutes later, in the 41st minute, the Danes were allowed back into the game when a dink over the top beat a distinctly ropey offside trap. Michael Krohn-Dehli, Denmark's goal-scoring hero against Holland, sent a lovely cushioned header back across the goal over the flailing Rui Patricio in goal, where Niklas Bendtner, untroubled by any Portuguese players, nodded into an empty net from about two feet.
Portugaltightened up noticeably as the second half wore on, risking less and less going forward, though Ronaldo missed two one-on-one chances against Andersen that would have steadied their nerves.
His thoughts must have been dark indeed when Lars Jacobsen exploited the space on the right of the penalty area and sent a deep cross into the Portuguese penalty area. It was Bendtner, once again, who peeled off from Real Madrid defender Pepe to head in unopposed at the far post.
Portugalpoured forward again for the final 10 minutes, clattering into Danish defenders and winning corners, and it fell to the Porto substitute Varela to provide the winner they needed so much.
The super-sub, who missed a great chance against Germany on Saturday, swiped at the ball with his left, missed, but was given another go with his right foot and slotted a stunner into the bottom corner in the 87th minute.
Author: Ben Knight
Editor: Nancy Isenson