A few inches of woodwork and some white paint denied Mexico's World Cup team a victory over Denmark in a memorable international soccer game Thursday night before an enthusiastic crowd of 32,200 at the Coliseum.
What appeared to be two potential goals--one in each half--slammed off the Danish crossbar and right post, respectively, and the Mexicans had to settle for a 1-1 tie.
The result was a moral victory for Denmark, which was fielding a team of primarily second- and third-string players but which played an inspired game under the leadership of tireless veteran Allan Simonsen.
The tie kept intact Mexico's record of not having been beaten in its last 12 appearances in Los Angeles. And the Danes, cheered on by about 1,500 fans clad in red and white, can go home today knowing they did far better than expected.
The Danes might have lost, though, if Luis Flores' overhead bicycle kick with seven minutes remaining in the match had gone a few inches to the left instead of caroming off the right upright.
As it was, the Danes were a trifle unlucky earlier in the second half when Simonsen was fouled by Mexican goalkeeper Pablo Larios as he broke free one-on-one against the goalie. On the resulting free kick, Klaus Nielsen's shot was blocked by Larios, who deflected the ball clear with his right leg after appearing beaten.
The Danes started well, carrying the game to the Mexicans and showing no ill-effects of having arrived in Los Angeles from Copenhagen just 28 hours before game time.
In fact, with just 6:15 gone, Simonsen put Denmark ahead with a remarkable shot from 22 yards out near the right corner of the goal area.
Taking a through pass from midfield, Europe's 1977 Player of the Year hit the ball almost as soon as he received it, and his perfectly placed shot found the lower left-hand corner of the net beyond the reach of a startled Larios.
Denmark almost took a 2-0 lead six minutes later when Mexican defender Armando Manzo lofted a pass back to his goalkeeper without noticing that Larios had come off his line. A quick bit of back-pedaling by the goalie enabled him to prevent the disaster of the ball going into the net for what would have been a Danish goal.
Mexico gradually began taking charge of the game and was unlucky not to tie the score in the 17th minute. Felix Barbosa pushed a ball out to the right wing, where teammate Raul Servin immediately sent a dangerous-looking cross floating across the Danish goalmouth.
Peter Schmeichel, Denmark's No. 3 goalkeeper, raced out of his net to punch the ball clear and then had to dive full length to retrieve it when it fell at the feet of Mexican forward Miguel Espana.
The Danes survived another scare in the 22nd minute, thwarting an attack initiated by Mexican captain Tomas Boy. Boy sent a pass out to Servin on the right wing, and Servin fed Espana, who flicked the ball into the air in front of the Danish goal. Alejandro Dominguez's attempted volley was blocked by three Danish defenders, who unceremoniously bundled Dominguez to the ground but drew no foul.
Mexico kept up its pressure, and Boy forced Schmeichel into a snap save with a wicked-looking free kick from the left at the 24-minute mark. Eventually, the pressure paid off, and it was a free kick that brought the long-expected equalizer.
Awarded a direct free kick just outside the goal area and not quite directly in front of the net, Mexico this time gave Flores the ball. His curving shot was spinning in the back of the net before Schmeichel could even react and the score was tied at 1-1.