Crossbar Spanish hero as he denies Portugal and sends Spain into the final
Portugal (2) 0-0 (4) Spain
Dismay and denial were painted on the faces of the Portuguese fans who came to watch the Euro 2012 semi-final match between Portugal and Spain, as Bruno Alves smashed the ball off the cross bar allowing Cesc Fabregas to score the winner in a grueling penalty shootout.
The Donbass Arena in Donestsk, Ukraine was filled with high hopes as Portugal and Spain walk out onto the pitch before their semi-final clash. Portugal having come second in their group and beating the Czech Republic in the quarter final, were looking to their captain, Cristiano Ronaldo to lead their team to the final in Kiev. Spain having topped their group and convincingly beat France in the quarterfinal were the favorites to reach the final of this tournament.
A game filled with many missed chances from either side was to be decided on a penalty shootout in which Spain won. Portugal put up a fight in normal time, creating the most chances on goal. However, in extra time, Spain took control and were attacking all-out to grab a decisive goal.
Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo led his team onto the pitch once again hoping to secure a spot in the Euro 2012 final against either Germany or Italy. By succeeding in doing this, he hoped it would put him into prime contention to win the Player of the Tournament Award.
The Spanish dominated the first 15 minutes of the game with their passing ability and control of possession over the Portuguese. However, they were unable to penetrate the disciplined Portuguese defense as easily as they have done against other teams earlier in the tournament. Portuguese left back Fabio Coentrao impressed in the defense, playing a big part in subduing the creative abilities of Spain’s David Silva. Iniesta of Spain had a great chance to score in the early stages but smashed the ball wide over the goal.
Once the Portuguese got their momentum going, they were pressuring the Spanish midfield and picking up decent amounts of possession. Ronaldo made a beautiful run down the left flank to cross the ball towards the six-yard box only for Casillas to catch it. The Iberians had the only two shots on target in the first half. All in all, Spain held a majority of the possession but was unable to connect well in the Portuguese third, and Portugal wasn’t clinical enough in their finishing to score a goal.
The second half began similarly to how the first half ended with both teams having a go at each other’s defenses to no avail. A majority of the game was played in the middle of the pitch between the two midfields.
The first substitution was made in minute 53 when Cesc Fabregas came on for Negredo. A tactical change made because of Negredo’s inability to find the target. Fabregas is then played as a false striker or sometimes known as a Fales-9, playing as an attacking based midfielder in place of a conventional striker.
In minute 68, Xavi Hernandez had Spain’s first shot on target from well outside the box, but the Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio quelled his effort.
Portugal then immediately counter-attacked and were well into the attacking third, but once again Hugo Almieda misses the target.
The Portuguese attempted to increase their chances of scoring by substituting out the misfiring Hugo Almeida for 20-year-old striker Nelson Oliveira in the 81st minute.
Ronaldo’s free kick in minute 82 was blocked by Arbeloa’s arm for which the referee awarded another free kick closer to the penalty box. However his second attempt on goal sailed over the bar not troubling Casillas.
A surprise substitution was made four minutes from the end of normal time as Pedro Rodriguez came on for the Barcelona pass master Xavi Hernandez. This change allowed Iniesta to move into the center midfield with Pedro moving out to the left wing.
Portugal’s best chance of the second half came when they caught Spain on the break, with four attacking players running at three Spanish defenders. However, Cristiano Ronaldo overzealously smashed the ball with too much power way over the goal.
Spain looked to have been revived in extra time with an early chance as Jesus Navas ran with blistering pace down the flank and crossed it low to the center for Fabregas, only for Pepe to intervene.
A huge chance for Spain was created in minute 103 for Andres Iniesta as Jordi Alba put in a cross for him. Iniesta then squandered the chance to score the possible winner from close range, when he kicked it straight into Rui Patricio who brilliantly parried it for a corner.
Spain had another chance in minute 110 as they tried to cross the ball low into the center of the Portuguese penalty box. However the ball was deflected off Pepe into the hands of the keeper.
Coentrao was the hero for Portugal once again as Pedro made a run with the ball down the middle and deceived Bruno Alves on the edge of the penalty box, only for the ball to be cleared by Coentrao.
The game then moved on to the penalty shootout where the first two shots from both teams were missed chances as both Alonso of Spain and Moutinho of Portugal had their shots blocked.
The difference was made when the Portuguese defender Bruno Alves stepped up to the penalty spot for his turn at goal. His shot was denied by the woodwork and Spain gain the advantage in the penalty shootout. Fabregas is next for Spain, with all eyes in the stadium plastered on him, he calmly kicked the ball in off the post to win the penalty shootout on 4-2, securing Spain’s place in the Euro 2012 Final.
Ronaldo will be returning back to Portugal ruing his missed chances in this game. Known to be a master free kick taker, he wasn’t able to convert any of his four free kick opportunities in the game. Portugal lacks a first class striker to grab the goals that they sorely need. Their reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo to grab them their goals, makes them easy to shut down. However on the bright side, defender Fabio Coentrao had a cracking game playing at left back. He almost didn’t put a wrong foot in the game, closing down the creative abilities of David Silva and Jesus Navas. If it were not for him, Portugal most probably would have lost the game in normal time. Goalkeeper Rui Patricio also had a good match saving some clear-cut Spanish chances.
Spain on the other hand was in control of possession throughout the whole match. They were however, unable to grab any goals as their experiment with striker Negredo failed to reap any goals. The substitute Pedro Rodriguez however, had a brilliant game coming on for Xavi Hernandez in the 86th minute. His dazzling dribbling abilities on the left flank foxed the Portuguese defense on several occasions almost leading to a couple of goal scoring opportunities.
Now Spain has to wait until later today to find out whom they are up against in the UEFA Euro 2012 Final, when Germany takes on Italy in Warsaw.