June 14 (Bloomberg) -- Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1 last night to move closer to a quarterfinal spot in soccer’s European Championship. Portugal boosted its chances with a 3-2 win against Denmark.
Mario Gomez got both goals for Germany in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to tie Russia’s Alan Dzagoev for the tournament lead with three. Robin van Persie replied for the Netherlands, which has lost both its matches.
Germany has a maximum six points in Group B. The record three-time champion will be assured of a quarterfinal place if it avoids defeat in its final pool game against Denmark on June 17. Portugal and Denmark have three points. The top two teams advance to the next stage.
“We’ve opened the gates to the quarterfinals,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said in comments on UEFA’s website. “It’s in our hands after what was an intense, tight game in extreme heat.”
Today, Italy plays Croatia in Poznan, Poland, and defending champion Spain faces Ireland in Gdansk in the second round of Group C games.
In the opening 11 minutes Van Persie sent a volley straight at goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, then put the ball wide after being played in by Arjen Robben.
In between those attempts, Germany’s Mezut Ozil hit a post with a 20-yard (18 meter) volley that Maarten Stekelenburg gathered.
The opening goal came on 24 minutes when Bastian Schweinsteiger slid a pass through for Gomez, who turned and struck a low shot past Stekelenburg.
Holger Badstuber headed straight at the goalkeeper after 37 minutes and a minute later Gomez lifted the ball over Stekelenburg from a tight angle to extend the lead.
The Netherlands introduced Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar at halftime in an attempt to rescue the match.
Van Persie tested Neuer with a volley and Wesley Sneijder shot just wide, while Germany’s Mats Hummels had two opportunities saved.
Van Persie got the first goal of the tournament for the Netherlands, the leading scorer in qualifying, on 74 minutes as he turned past a defender and powered a low shot into the corner of the net.
Germany almost increased its advantage in the final minute of injury time when Miroslav Klose put Stekelenburg under pressure as he received a back pass.
It’s the first time the Dutch have lost successive matches since the 1998 World Cup. The Netherlands has reached at least the quarterfinals for six straight European championships, starting with its victory in 1988.
“We showed courage going forward but not in defense,” Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said.
Portugal recovered from its opening defeat to Germany, with Silvestre Varela scoring an 87th-minute goal in Lviv to improve his team’s chances of reaching the knockout stage for a fifth straight time.
Pepe and Helder Postiga also scored for 2004 runner-up Portugal, which had only one goal in its past four matches. Nicklas Bendtner had both of Denmark’s goals.
“We controlled most parts of the game and the only chances they created resulted in goals,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento told UEFA’s website. “In the second half we had a lot of chances and if we would have made it 3-1 the game would have been over.”
Pepe blocked an early shot from Christian Eriksen as Denmark, which finished above Portugal in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and this tournament, made a positive start.
Lars Jacobsen was then forced to clear a Nani cross and goalkeeper Stephan Andersen punched the resulting corner clear.
Cristiano Ronaldo dragged a shot wide on 20 minutes, then hit a free kick over the bar. Portugal scored from a set piece in the 24th minute, Pepe heading in a corner.
Postiga doubled the advantage 12 minutes later with a first-time shot from Nani’s cross.
Denmark replied before halftime from a rare attack with Michael Krohn-Dehli heading a pass across goal for the unmarked Bendtner to head in from close range.
Ronaldo twice failed to score in the second half with only the goalkeeper to beat. Bendtner then tied it with 10 minutes remaining with a header that went into the net off the post. It was his 20th goal for Denmark, including six against Portugal.
Varela snatched the winner moments after replacing Raul Meireles when he spun around before firing a right-foot shot into the net. Danish substitute Lasse Schone could have tied the score in injury time but put his effort over the bar from 15 yards out.
“It’s a horrible feeling to lose so close to the end,” Denmark coach Morten Olsen said. “I was proud of the way we played and proud too of the way we fought back in the second half.”
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