0-1, min. 19, Boye. 0-2, min. 61, Harder. 1-2, min. 62, van Mechelen. 1-3, min. 71, Harder.
Belgium 1-3 Denmark: Strong second-half not enough for the Red Flames

Belgium 1-3 Denmark: Strong second-half not enough for the Red Flames

Harder shines as Danes finish 2016 on a high.

Sophie Lawson

Goals from Simone Boye and Pernille Harder were enough for Denmark as they saw off Belgium in Tubize.

Quick starts and half chances

Denmark saw their first chance just inside of a minute, Sanne Troelsgaard’s clearance was found by Pernille Harder who set Katrine Veje on her way, the Brondby attacker taking the ball to the by-line before sending it into the box for Harder to get her head on.

The connection was a sloppy one and Justien Oduers easily grabbed the ball before it could do any damage. Even though the visitors were the ones with the ball, moving it around with ease the hosts poked and prodded at every available opportunity a hopeful low ball from Sara Yuceil had just enough on it for Janice Cayman to catch up to, out-muscling Janni Arnth before whipping it low for an arriving Yuceil to volley just wide.

The Red Flames did well to hold their shape, a 5-3-2 off of the ball, to limit the avenues for their hosts but the Danes continued to find half-chances, Troelsgaard’s toe-poke just too close to Odeurs to sneak by. But again when the visitors came close the hosts responded in kind, Mie Jans lucky not to have been carded for a pull back on Cayman when she was away just past half-way. A free-kick that came to nothing but a home side brimming with confidence after their recent win over rivals Holland.

Boye keeps Denmark afloat

Still the Danes refused to go away, having joy out on the right, Theresa Nielsen nipped beyond Maud Coutereels to bring down a lofted ball, her one-two with Harder wasted as the ball found Troelsgaard. The Kolding player’s volley comfortably over. But the pressure around Odeurs’ goal was mounting, Johanna Rasmussen’s clip in the box fell on deaf ears as the visitors claimed a penalty after some neat work out wide, the deadlock broken two minutes later.

Clearly comfortable rolling the ball around, the Danes were winning every half-cleared ball at a corner, white shirts flocking just waiting for enough space to slip a shot through, Simone Boye the one to finally breakdown the backline, her shot from two yards hammered into the corner.

Despite the goal disadvantage the hosts didn’t let their heads drop, and continued to pick and prod, using Cayman’s pace to set them away, the Flash forward always a willing runner. Coutereels’s looped volley gave the crowd something to cheer as it curled over Stina Lykke-Petersen and into the roof of the net.

At the other end the Danes were beginning to knock on the door again, Nanna Christiansen’s ball into the box a little too obvious and the Red Flames were able to block Harder’s shot before Rasmussen sent her shot from close range wide of the far post.

The crowd were always willing to get behind the hosts but could only chorus an ironic cheer as they got numbers forward, the ball running for the Red Flames and the visitors unable to get near, but with players advancing Cayman’s curler was an easy claim for Lykke-Petersen.

Belgium bite back

The hosts started the second-half well, seeing the first real chance of the half as Tessa Wullaert slipped around Arnth as the defender lost the ball, an advancing Lykke-Petersen left the goal gaping but she stood up well to Wullaert’s shot, blocking with a strong hand. The Red Flames only buoyed by the defensive wobble.

The visitors struggled for rhythm as the hosts found the pace of the ball, seeing far more of it after the break, sending more bodies forward they were still reduced to probing for an opening. Even though they’d been limited after the restart it barely took anything for the Danes to snatch a second as Harder slipped between the centre-backs to deftly bring the ball down and knock it beyond Odeurs.

Already to celebrate as it cannoned off of the far post and back into play near the opposite woodwork, Harder first to the errant ball to flick it beyond the young keeper.

The two-goal lead was short-lived however as again, out of simply nothing, Davina van Mechelen found herself with the ball on the right side of the box and sent her effort arrowing past the defence and keeper up into the far corner. A moment of real quality form the young forward.

The game was muddled however, even though Belgium had the lion’s share of possession after the break it was Denmark who found the net again as Harder rode of the offside trap to find herself one-on-one with Odeurs from Stine Larsen’s lay-off. Already at a tight angle and with the Jena shot-stopper showing her barely any of the goal, the Damallsvenskan top-goalscorer found the postage stamp beyond Odeurs’ outstretched glove to send the ball spinning over the line.

The visitors began to ride their luck in the last ten minutes, Boye’s goal-line clearance keeping them a nose ahead as Lyyke-Petersen lay prostrate on the spot after a fine block before the keeper and her defence contrived to keep both Jana Coryn and Cayman out from close close range.

The home side really pushing for another late goal, the team still riding high on confidence, the boisterous crowd well behind them. But unlike against the Netherlands there was to be no late drama, no late come-back and Belgium were resigned to finishing the successful year on a loss.

A game of two halves

Whilst the Danes had been on top in the first-half they rarely found themselves on the front foot after the break and it will be of great concern to Ives Serneels that Denmark still manged to get the better of the defence twice after the restart. Belgium is still a developing nation  relying on speedy counters and solid team spirt and whilst their progress is admirable and their preparations for Euro 2017 commendable it’s hard to see them settling in for a long stay in Holland next July.

On the other side of the coin is Denmark with a far greater technical knowledge of how to manipulate the ball – like their Scandinavian counterparts – and although pushed away from the ball after the break the team is lead well on the pitch by Harder, the captain instrumental in their success. The strength of the two top teams in the 3F Liga combined with the healthy number of capped players playing their league football outside of Denmark bodes well for the small nation that often gets forgotten when Norway and Sweden are brought into the equation.