MILTON KEYNES: Pernille Harder’s second-half goal ensured Denmark kept their hopes of progressing from the UEFA Women’s Euro Group B alive as they overcame a determined Finland.
With both nations were seeking to respond to heavy opening-game defeats and reignite their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals, it was the 2017 finalists who deservedly prevailed at Stadium MK.
Chelsea forward Harder eventually ended Finland’s resistance in the 72nd minute, heading in from close range after Karen Holmgaard’s attempt had rebounded off the crossbar.
Denmark had dominated the contest but Lars Sondergaard’s side found themselves frustrated in their efforts to force a breakthrough.
Forward Nadia Nadim went closest in the first half as she directed Sara Thrige’s low cross towards goal – but Finland goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela managed to prevent the ball from trickling into the bottom corner.
A slick attacking move also resulted in Katrine Veje’s low drive from the edge of the penalty area being saved by Korpela before the interval, while the Finnish skipper denied Holmgaard midway through the second period.
Finland, whose first attempt on target did not come until the 60th minute through a Ria Oling strike from distance, will be knocked out of the tournament later if Spain fail to beat Germany in their clash that kicks off at 20:00 BST.
Denmark avoided losing three successive matches at a Women’s Euros for the first time, with their opening defeat to Germany on Friday following the one to Netherlands in the 2017 final
The odds of a successful group campaign were already against these two nations before the opening round of fixtures, when Denmark were thrashed 4-0 by eight-time winners Germany and tournament favourites Spain recovered from an early setback to overcome Finland 4-1.
With victory crucial to both sides, Denmark offered the greater attacking threat from the start, but were initially unable to make their superiority count despite 10 first-half attempts.
By far their best opportunity fell to Nadim after 12 minutes, but the 34-year-old – who fled Afghanistan as a child refugee more than 20 years ago – could not get enough power behind her first-time shot, allowing the busy Korpela enough time to scramble across her goal to save.
Nadim was again unable to add the finishing touch to another dangerous move as Finland were immediately put under pressure after the restart, while Oling’s curled attempt was comfortable for Lene Christensen when Anna Signeul’s team finally registered an shot of their own.
Harder, who failed to register a strike against Germany, had struggled to make an impact, while only goalkeeper Christensen had fewer touches of the ball than striker Signe Bruun before her 64th-minute substitution as Denmark failed to produce enough quality.
But they finally went ahead when Harder took her chance – the ball dropping kindly off the bar for the 29-year-old to finish – with the goal triggering jubilant scenes among the Danish players and substitutes by the side of the pitch.
Christensen prevented Finland from delivering a dramatic late twist as she leapt to push substitute Jenny-Julia Danielsson’s strike over the bar.
It means Denmark still have a chance of reaching the last eight with Spain to follow on Saturday.