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  • Denmark 0-1 Switzerland: Shaqiri solo-run

    A wonderful solo run and finish from playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri earned Switzerland a 1-0 victory over host nation Denmark on the opening evening of the European Under-21 Championship, Saturday 11/06/2011.
    The contest in Aalborg - billed as a battle between the two 19-year-olds, Shaqiri and Denmark's Christian Eriksen - was settled by the former after 48 minutes as he embarked on a Lionel Messi-esque dribble before firing the ball back across Mikkel Andersen and in.

    FC Basel's Shaqiri, who last week started the senior Euro 2012 qualifier against England, was influential throughout but Denmark should have secured a point in front of a sell-out home crowd and were denied by a series of fine saves by Yann Sommer as well as an offside flag in the final seconds. They sit joint bottom of Group A with Iceland, who lost 2-0 to Belarus earlier on Saturday.

    Switzerland, looking to embellish their growing reputation in youth football after a victory in the 2009 Under-17 World Cup, began sharply as senior international Shaqiri, lofted a beautiful ball over the defence for Innocent Emeghara, who was unable to beat Andersen.

    Shaqiri, as predicted, was a central figure and happily shot from range on numerous occasions as Denmark afforded him too much space in the pocket behind the striker. However, the playmaker's radar appeared to be off as he sent a succession of shots wide of the post in a busy first-half performance.

    Denmark, though, had their own playmaker with a burgeoning reputation and Ajax ace Eriksen, making his debut at Under-21 level after being fast tracked into the senior side for last summer's World Cup, was a sporadic menace, whether testing Sommer himself or creating chances for his team-mates.

    On 34 minutes he gave Swiss defender Fabian Lustenberger the eyes and spin away from him before delivering a cross that eventually fell to Bashkim Kadrii, but the forward saw his deflected effort saved by Sommer.

    Just seconds before half-time, and following another couple of long-range shots for Shaqiri, Denmark opened up the defence once again as Daniel Wass delivered a superb pass with the outside of his right boot for Villarreal's Nicki Bille Nielsen, who struck his volley off target.

    Just three minutes into the second half, Shaqiri demonstrated why there is so much hype around the FC Basel star. Collecting the ball in the centre of the pitch, he ghosted away from three markers when making his way into the box and guided the ball back across goal and into the far corner.

    Denmark responded as they created a slew of chances. However, they found Switzerland goalkeeper Sommer to be in unbeatable form.
    Andreas Bjelland and Nielsen were denied in quick succession but Sommer's finest moment came when flinging out his arms to stop Wass from equalising with a firm effort following a cut-back. Substitute Henrik Dalsgaard was the next to fall under Sommer's spell as he was denied at close range, while Mike Jensen was unable to convert with his header when the ball was worked back into the box.

    In the dying minutes, a free-kick from Eriksen appeared to be heading for the top corner, only to be saved almost contemptuously by Sommer. Though he was finally beaten in the fourth minute of added time by Nielsen, a marginal offside flag saved the Swiss, who go joint top of the group with Belarus.
    Tom Adams


    Team Line-up:

    Denmark: Andersen, Zanka Jorgensen, Bjelland, Boilesen, Wass, Jensen, Eriksen, Fenger, H. Nielsen. Povlsen. Kadrii.
    Switzerland: Sommer, Koch, Rossini, Lustenberger, Emeghara, F. Frei, Shaqiri, Mehmedi, Xhaka, Affolter, Berardi.


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