June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Substitute Silvestre Varela scored an 87th-minute goal as Portugal beat Denmark 3-2 to boost its chances of reaching the knockout stage at soccer’s European Championship for a fifth straight time.
Pepe and Helder Postiga also scored in the Group B game in Lviv, Ukraine, today for 2004 runnerup Portugal, which had only one goal in its past four matches. Nicklas Bendtner got both of Denmark’s goals.
Portugal, seeking to win the tournament for a first time, joins Denmark and record three-time champion Germany with three points, with the Netherlands yet to score a point. Germany faces the Netherlands later today in Kharkiv in their second group game.
Denmark and Portugal both named unchanged teams, although the Danes were forced to substitute in midfield 16 minutes into the match with Jakob Poulsen replacing the injured Niki Zimling.
Pepe blocked an early shot from Christian Eriksen as 1992 champion Denmark, which finished above Portugal in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and this tournament, made a positive start.
Portugal started to settle, with Lars Jacobsen forced to clear a Nani cross and goalkeeper Stephan Andersen punching the resulting corner clear.
Cristiano Ronaldo dragged a shot wide on 20 minutes, then hit a freekick high over the bar soon later. Portugal did score from a set piece in the 24th minute as Joao Moutinho swung in a corner which was met at the near post by the head of Pepe.
A Ronaldo freekick hit the defensive wall and was then deflected over as Portugal continue to apply pressure, before Postiga doubled his team’s advantage after 36 minutes. The striker hit a first-time shot from Nani’s cross for his 20th international goal.
Denmark replied before halftime from a rare attack with Michael Krohn-Dehli collecting a long pass from Jacobsen and heading across goal for the unmarked Bendtner to head in from close range.
Ronaldo twice failed to score with only the goalkeeper to beat before Denmark levelled. The Real Madrid forward hit a shot straight at Andersen early in the second half, then after 78 minutes he broke through on goal but slipped the ball wide.
Bendtner appeared to have earned his team a point with 10 minutes remaining when he headed into the net off a post from a cross by Jacobsen. It was his 20th Denmark goal, including six against Portugal.
There was another opportunity from Ronaldo from a freekick which Andersen held before Varela snatched the winner moments after replacing Raul Meireles. 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 affort over the bar from 15 yards out.
To contact the reporter on this story: James Cone in London at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com.