Amalie Vangsgaard scored a late winner as Denmark marked their their return from a 16-year Fifa Women’s World Cup absence with a 1-0 win over China.
The substitute, who had only been on the pitch for five minutes, headed home Pernille Harder’s corner in the 90th minute in Perth, Australia.
There were doubts over whether the goal would stand but VAR officials decided that Danish defender Rikke Sevecke had not interfered with China’s goalkeeper Xu Huan as the ball hit the back of the net.
The result moves Denmark to the top of Group D, level on points and goal difference with England, who secured a 1-0 win over Haiti earlier on Saturday.
Having missed the last three Women’s World Cup tournaments, Denmark were put on the back foot straight away and struggled to maintain possession as China piled on the pressure.
But the Steel Roses’ best chances were limited to long-range strikes by Chen Qiaozhu and Zhang Linyan, both of which failed to challenge Danish goalkeeper Lene Christensen.
Lars Sondergaard’s side settled into the game after 20 minutes, but neither team could find a golden opportunity before the break.
Wang Shuang, who was brought on for Zhang Xin after the break, forced the first save of the second-half as China started brightly.
But it was Denmark who were presented with a first clear-cut opportunity when Nicoline Sorensen’s cross into the box was deflected and found Josefine Hasbo with an open goal. However, she surprisingly headed over the crossbar.
Wang Shanshan nearly gifted Denmark with the opening goal as her clearance from a corner inched just wide of her own post.
The game became more end-to-end as the second half progressed and Denmark found the all-important winner as Harder’s out-swinging corner was met with a powerful header by Paris St-Germain forward Vangsgaard.
China pressed hard to find an equaliser in the final minutes with Wang Shuang’s free-kick into the box causing a scramble from the Danish defence as they cleared it from the goalline.
Some of the Chinese players protested that the ball had made it’s way over the line, but the assistant referee’s raised flag for offside quickly dampened any hopes of a late leveller.
1Christensen4SeveckeBooked at 40mins3Ballisager5Boye11Veje2Hasbo6Holmgaard12KühlSubstituted forBruunat 62’minutes19ThomsenSubstituted forVangsgaardat 85’minutes10Harder14SørensenSubstituted forMadsenat 72’minutesSubstitutes7Troelsgaard8Snerle9Vangsgaard13Thrige15Thøgersen16Larsen17Madsen18Gevitz20Bruun21Gejl22Bay23Svava
12Xu2LiSubstituted forGaoat 85’minutes11Wang8Yao15Chen6ZhangSubstituted forWangat 45’minutes10Zhang13Yang19Zhang17WuSubstituted forGuat 90+1’minutes14LouSubstituted forShenat 78’minutesSubstitutes1Zhu3Dou4Wang5Wu7Wang9Shen16Yao18Tang20Xiao21Gu22Pan23Gao
Match ends, Denmark Women 1, China PR 0.
Second Half ends, Denmark Women 1, China PR 0.
Offside, Denmark Women. Karen Holmgaard tries a through ball, but Pernille Harder is caught offside.
Pernille Harder (Denmark Women) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Shen Mengyu (China PR).
Offside, China PR. Wang Shuang tries a through ball, but Yang Lina is caught offside.
Foul by Rikke Madsen (Denmark Women).
Shen Mengyu (China PR) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Offside, Denmark Women. Amalie Vangsgaard tries a through ball, but Rikke Madsen is caught offside.
Karen Holmgaard (Denmark Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Wang Shuang (China PR).
Substitution, China PR. Gu Yasha replaces Wu Chengshu.
Goal! Denmark Women 1, China PR 0. Amalie Vangsgaard (Denmark Women) header from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Pernille Harder with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Denmark Women. Conceded by Gao Chen.
Foul by Signe Bruun (Denmark Women).
Zhang Linyan (China PR) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Amalie Vangsgaard (Denmark Women) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Substitution, Denmark Women. Amalie Vangsgaard replaces Janni Thomsen.
Substitution, China PR. Gao Chen replaces Li Mengwen.
Attempt missed. Rikke Madsen (Denmark Women) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Janni Thomsen following a corner.