Peru’s Christian Cueva wore the choke collar when he spilt the uprights O’ Yea wrong sport in dying moments of the first half against Denmark that could have given the Peruvians the one nil lead in the 45th minute plus one.
The missed gift sent into orbit was the match changer. Denmark came back to nab the match winner in the 59th minute. Yussuf Poulsen tickled the twines for the 1-0 win for the Danes over Peru’s.
Peru’s players were crushed by this heart-breaking loss.
The Guardians Stuart James:” A landmark day for Peru, who returned to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1982, ended with a sobering reminder of just how cruel football can be at times. Yussuf Poulsen scored the goal that broke Peru hearts on a night that turned into a personal ordeal for Christian Cueva, who had to be consoled by his teammates after his awful penalty, which was awarded following a pitchside review by the referee, sailed wildly over the bar just before half-time.
Cueva struggled to keep his emotions together at the time as he fought back tears and the midfielder was still shaking his head at the final whistle, along with plenty of other Peru players, as the team whose colourful supporters have travelled to Russia in such huge numbers, capturing the imagination of people from all over the world, struggled to come to terms with a chastening defeat.
Even Åge Hareide, Denmark’s coach, conceded Peru deserved something from a game that slipped from their grasp just before the hour, when Christian Eriksen came to life and delivered one of those killer passes. Poulsen, who had brought down Cueva for the penalty, coolly dispatched his shot inside the near post and the Peru fans briefly fell silent.
It did not take long for them to regain their voices and, buoyed by the introduction from the bench of Paolo Guerrero, their all-time leading scorer, the tens of thousands of Peru supporters inside the stadium willed their team to get an equaliser. That the players came up short was down to a combination of profligacy, bad luck and an outstanding performance from Kasper Schmeichel, the Denmark goalkeeper, who denied Edison Flores, Guerrero and Jefferson Farfán in the second half. Guerrero also back-heeled inches wide and Alberto Rodríguez headed agonisingly past the far upright.
Denmark have gone 533 minutes without conceding a goal but that run should have come to an end before the interval. Bakary Gassama, the Gambian referee, initially waved for play to continue when Cueva tumbled to the floor under a challenge from Poulsen and it appeared as though no penalty would be given.
Then, however, Gassama got word from the VAR that he should look at the incident on the pitchside monitor. Although the contact was slight, the footage clearly showed that Poulsen caught Cueva’s trailing leg, and Gassama pointed to the spot. For all the criticism of VAR and the concerns voiced beforehand, the process was relatively quick and ultimately the correct decision was reached.
What nobody could legislate for is what would happen next. Giving himself a long run-up, Cueva stuttered before sweeping a right‑footed kick horribly over the bar and into the supporters behind the goal. Cueva looked absolutely devastated moments afterwards, so much so that when the half-time whistle blew he was surrounded by Peru players, including the substitutes. “At half-time we told him he had to keep playing the same,” said Ricardo Gareca, the Peru coach, whose team had been unbeaten in 15 matches.
The missed penalty was a huge reprieve for a Denmark side who created little throughout. With Eriksen on the fringes in the first half, they were guilty of knocking too many long balls and overly dependent on set pieces. Hareide called his team’s display “tentative” and also admitted that Denmark’s players had struggled to cope with the noise inside a stadium that must have felt like a home venue for the Peru players. “We were afraid a little bit of the atmosphere and it did affect us,” he said.