Gomez shines for Germany

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Reuters

Germany's Mario Gomez (front) heads the ball with The Netherlands' John Heitinga during their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv.

Kiev - Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Wednesday to move within touching distance of the Euro 2012 quarterfinals and Portugal kept their chances alive with a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Denmark.

Mario Gomez scored twice for Germany, taking his tally to three goals in two games and leaving the Dutch needing victory over Portugal in their last Group B match to have any chance of progressing.

They are also dependent on Germany beating Denmark. The Danes came back from 2-0 down against Portugal thanks to two close-range headers by Nicklas Bendtner, before substitute Silvestre Varela smashed in the 87th-minute winner.

Germany have six points from two games, Denmark and Portugal have three and the Netherlands none.

Off the pitch, tension was growing between Russia and co-hosts Poland over fighting in which police fired rubber bullets and teargas and detained 184 people before the countries' Group A match in Warsaw on Tuesday.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had told Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk by telephone that Warsaw bore “full responsibility” for fans' safety and Russia's Foreign Ministry accused Polish fans of provoking the violence.

Ukraine, co-hosting the month-long tournament with Poland, also faced controversy when Germany's foreign minister urged fans not to forget the plight of the former Soviet republic's jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

“I hope that amid all the enthusiasm focused on the leather ball, the destiny of Yulia Tymoshenko and of all other Ukrainian opposition activists sitting in jail will not be forgotten,” the minister, Guido Westerwelle, said.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv where Germany played the Netherlands. Like some other European Union countries, Germany is boycotting matches in Ukraine in protest at a case they say is politically motivated.

Gomez fired the Germans into a 24th-minute lead after turning in the area and firing past keeper Maarten Stekelenburg following a superb Bastian Schweinsteiger pass.

The pair combined again 14 minutes later, with Gomez scoring from a narrow angle on the right before Robin Van Persie cut the deficit with a sweet right-foot shot 17 minutes from time for his team's first goal of the tournament.

Portugal went ahead in Lviv when defender Pepe lost his marker from a corner by Joao Moutinho and headed powerfully past Danish goalkeeper Stephan Andersen.

Portugal doubled their lead in the 36th minute when striker Helder Postiga got in front of defender Simon Kjaer and shot past Anderson from close range after a pass by Nani.

But it looked initially like Portugal, beaten 1-0 by Germany in their opening match, had let the Danes off the hook.

Bendtner scored from almost on the goalline in the 41st minute after Michael Krohn-Dehli looped a header over keeper Rui Patricio, and he nodded powerfully home in the 80th minute.

But three minutes after coming off the bench, Varela took full advantage when he was given time and space and scored from eight metres at the second attempt after fluffing his first shot.

“Their equaliser was unfair at that stage of the match. We could have won the game more comfortably and with less suffering,” said Portugal coach Paolo Bento.

The Danes need to pick up at least a point against Germany in the final match on Sunday and hope other results go their way.

“It's a horrible feeling to lose so close to the end... the Portuguese were a bit luckier. Maybe they were a bit better,” coach Morten Olsen told reporters.

Although Nani had an excellent game, making one goal and generally tormenting the Danish defence, Cristiano Ronaldo misfired in front of goal.

The world's most expensive player missed two good scoring opportunities and under-performed in a big international yet again.

Tuesday's clashes in Warsaw were an embarrassment for Poland, which apologised for the first serious violence of the tournament.

Many Poles still resent decades of Soviet domination after World War 2 and what they regard as Moscow's increasingly nationalistic tone.

Poland promised tough punishment over the clashes, which began as Russian fans marched towards the stadium before the match which ended 1-1. Masked groups attacked the Russians, some of whom fought back, and both battled the police.

Eight people were sentenced on Wednesday, with punishments ranging from fines of 500 zloty ($150) to suspended jail terms of three to 12 months.

Interior Minister Jacket Cichocki said the detained Russians would probably be expelled from Poland and banned from Europe's border-free Schengen area for five years.

Uefa said it was determined the violence would not be repeated, condemning the clashes but also implying that the police show of strength had been over the top.

The Russians were in further trouble when European soccer's ruling body said they would be docked six points in qualifying for the next European Championship if their fans stepped out of line again following disturbances, including setting off fireworks, at their opening match against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw. - Reuters


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