Dutch defender John Heitinga (C-R) vies with Danish midfielder Niki Zimling during their Euro 2012 match at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv Saturday. — AFP
KHARKIV — Denmark survived a sustained assault by Netherlands to emerge with a 1-0 victory in their opening Euro 2012 Group B game Saturday thanks to a first-half goal by Michael Krohn-Dehli and some poor Dutch finishing.
Krohn-Dehli cut in from the left to surprise keeper Maarten Stekelenburg with a low shot through his legs after 24 minutes in a rare Danish attack, while Dutch winger Arjen Robben hit a post after 37 in one of many chances for his side.
“We created an improbable number of chances but if you fail to finish than this happens,” Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk told NOS-TV. “Before the Danes scored they never came close to our goal.”
The defeat leaves highly-fancied Netherlands needing positive results against Germany and Portugal.
The 2010 World Cup runner-up dominated from the outset, smartly working the ball through midfield and creating openings around a static Danish defense but it struggled to turn opportunities into shots on goal.
Robin Van Persie, who endured a difficult evening, set the tone in the seventh minute when Robben found him with an incisive pass but the striker screwed his shot wide.
Robben was more accurate with his effort nine minutes later with a low left foot shot but Danish goalkeeper Stephan Andersen got down well to save.
Van Persie produced a trademark turn to create space for a shot in the 23rd minute but his off-target effort was far from his usual high standards.
The Danes had looked disjointed and ineffective in midfield but they grabbed the lead against the run of play.
Left back Simon Poulsen raced down the wing and pulled the ball back into the path of Krohn-Dehli, who skipped past John Heitinga and fired into the net.
That prompted a wave of Dutch attacks but apart from when Robben hit the post, after collecting a poor clearance from Andersen, they ended in wasteful off-target efforts.
Russia impressed in beating the Czech Republic 4-1 at Wroclaw to lead the Group A standings Friday.
Russia was rewarded for fluent first-half attacking to lead 2-0 with goals from Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov.
The Czechs had brief hope from Vaclav Pilar’s 52nd-minute goal, but Dzagoev struck in the 80th and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko scored two minutes later for the Euro 2008 semifinalist. — AP