RECAP: MIDWEEK DANISH ACTION
Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland put one foot in the Danish Cup final with their first-leg win over Vejle while Babajide Ogunbiyi and Viborg earned a point in their makeup game with Lyngby.
FC Nordsjælland 2 - 0 Vejle BK
Michael Parkhurst and the Wild Tigers saved it for late, but picked up a pair of goals in the closing stages to take the edge over Vejle in the first leg of their Danish Cup semifinal.
Relegated to the bench for much of the spring, Parkhurst had seen a resurgence in playing time in the midst of Nordsjælland's breakneck schedule as of late, and continued his fine run in helping the the team to maintain an all-important shut-out of First Division team Vejle on Thursday evening.
The hosts clearly looked the more dominant of the two teams from the opening whistle, spending much of the first half consistently pressuring the organized Vejle defense.
They nearly took the lead in the 25th minute, as Canadian international Patrice Bernier struck the goalpost and, in his hurried attempt to clear the deflection from danger, Vejle keeper Kristian Fæste nearly knocked the ball into his own net.
A head-on-head collision that left Vejle players Azer Busuladic and Steffen Kielstrup bloodied five minutes later had the audience holding their breaths, but both eventually returned to the field unharmed, beneath their bandages.
A scoreless first half continued after the break in much the same fashion, with Vejle seeming satisfied to bring the tied aggregate back to their home grounds for the return leg.
Even though keeping their visitors from netting an away goal could have also been a silver lining for the Wild Tigers in the two-legged series, they pressed onwards and were fortunate to find their winner as the clock wound down.
Allowed too much space by the defense, Bernier stormed up towards their penalty area and launched a shot towards goal from just outside the top of the box, which took a high deflection off the heel of a Vejle defender, and flew over Fæste into goal for the 79th minute lead.
Energized by the stroke of luck, Nordsjælland pressed onwards to increase their lead, and had a pair of late appeals for penalties turned down by the referee, including what appeared to be a 89th minute handball by Martin Borre.
Their persistence paid off moments later as Swedish forward Rawez Lawan sent a short diagonal pass into the box to substitute Andreas Granskov-Hansen, whose outstretched shot bounced under Fæste's reach and into the left side of goal to secure the 2-0 win.
Should they protect their two-goal advantage in Wednesday's return leg at Vejle, the Wild Tigers will face the winner of the other semifinal, in which Midtjylland currently hold a 2-0 advantage over Odense.
In the meantime, they have three days rest to prepare for Sunday's home encounter against SønderjyskE.
Vejle defender Euan Holden missed the game while recovering from surgery, and will likely not participate when the team hosts Vestsjælland over the weekend.
Lyngby BK 0 - 0 Viborg FF
Babajide Ogunbiyi returned from a slight injury to anchor Viborg's back line on Wednesday evening as they fought to a point at Lyngby.
The defenses ruled in a game which saw neither attack able to mount any sustained efforts towards goal, with Ogunbiyi leading the way for the visitors to effectively shutting down Lyngby.
The towering central defender provided Viborg with perhaps their two best chances to steal a win, heading a corner wide in the opening stages of the second half, then having another attempt in the waning minutes saved before it crossed the line.
The point leaves Viborg in sixth place in the First Division, seven points off the promotion spots with nine games left on the schedule. They will next face ninth-place Hvidovre IF on Sunday.