COPENHAGEN: Joel Pohjanpalo scored and Lukas Hradecky saved a penalty to give Finland a 1-0 victory over Denmark on Saturday in a European Championship game overshadowed by Christian Eriksen’s collapse on the field.
The game was suspended for about 90 minutes after Eriksen needed urgent medical treatment near the end of the first half before being taken to a hospital. The Danish football federation said Eriksen was awake and in stable condition.
“Of course you can’t play a game with such feelings," Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. "What we tried to do was incredible. It’s incredible that the players managed to go out and try to play the second half and still be dominant. I’m very affected myself.”
When play resumed, Pohjanpalo put Finland ahead against the run of play in the 60th minute when he rose above Joakim Maehle to head home a cross from Jere Uronen. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel got his hands on the ball but couldn’t keep it out.
It was Finland's only effort on goal in the entire game as Denmark dominated throughout and finished with 23 total shots, although only six were on target.
The Danes' best chance came when they were handed a penalty after Yussuf Poulsen went down under a challenge from Paulus Arajuuri. But Hradecky dived to his left to stop a tame effort from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the 74th.
Finland was making its debut at a major tournament but what should have been the biggest win in the country's soccer history was completely overshadowed by Eriksen's medical emergency.
“It’s been definitely one of the most difficult games of my career,” Finland forward Teemu Pukki said. “We decided to do what the Danish team decided to do. ... It wasn’t easy to come back to the pitch. But once we heard everything seemed to be fine we started concentrating again on the game. And in the end we are proud of the victory. But the atmosphere after the game is definitely not as glorious as usual.”
Eriksen was given urgent medical attention on the field for about 10 minutes before he was carried off on a stretcher. The teams held an emergency meeting and decided to continue the match after it became clear that Eriksen was in stable condition.
Hjulmand said he was given the option of finishing the game on Saturday or resuming on Sunday.
“The players couldn’t imagine not being able to sleep tonight and then having to get in tomorrow, get on the bus and play a game,” Hjulmand said. “Honestly, it was best to get it over with.”
Denmark captain Simon Kjaer, who is close friends with Eriksen, couldn’t go on for long, though. He was substituted in the 63rd minute.
“Simon was very, very affected,” Hjulmand said. “I can’t imagine playing a football game myself after that. He was overwhelmed, they are very good friends.”
Denmark had dominated the first half until the incident, and forced three decent saves from Hradecky in the opening 20 minutes. Jones Wind first tried a hard shot from the edge of the area, before Hradecky tipped a header from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg over the bar and then palmed away a dipping long-distance shot from Eriksen in the 19th.
The Danes then failed to test Hradecky again until the penalty save.
At the final whistle, Finland's players celebrated loudly in front of their fans, while Denmark's hugged on the field.
Top-ranked Belgium beat Russia 3-0 in the other Group B match at Euro 2020.