Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spain 0-0 Portugal (4-2 PK, Spain Wins)


Spain knocked out Iberian rivals Portugal 4-2 on penalties after they played out a 0-0 draw in the first semi-final of Euro 2012, as Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves missed.

Match Summary

  • Man of the Match: Jordi Alba. The Spanish full-back was indefatigable and provided a constant outlet on the left flank, especially when the defending champions were under the cosh. As the game went on he got stronger and stronger. Andres Iniesta should have really scored from his cut-back in extra-time following yet another marauding run forward.

  • Portugal verdict: From the first whistle the Portuguese midfield harried and hustled Spain and when in possession their plan to hit balls early down the flanks for speedsters Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani worked a treat. They appeared to run out of steam a little in the second-half, more gaps appeared and Spain saw more of the ball. Fatigue really set in during extra-time and while they still posed a threat on the break, the tenacity of their defending unsurprisingly waned.

  • Spain verdict: Struggled to impose their trademark passing and pressing game early on and a lack of playing time for striker Alvaro Negredo proved problematic as he failed to read the flicks and tricks of his team-mates. Spain found their rhythm in the second-half as Xavi got a grip of the game and wore down Portugal, who lost their initial zest. Exerted more dominance in extra-time, with Andres Iniesta forcing a great save from Rui Patricio. They turned the screw as time ticked away and probably deserved to win.

  • Could do better: Alvaro Negredo. Having played just one minute of Euro 2012 prior to this semi-final it was somewhat of a surprise that Vincente del Bosque decide to start the striker. It was less of a surprise when the Sevilla man was hauled off after just 54 minutes having failed to make any telling contribution. He appeared to be playing a different game to his team-mates.

  • Stat attack: There was just one shot on target in the first half, the joint-fewest in a game at Euro 2012, and only two on target in the whole 90 minutes - both from Spain.

Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had missed a good chance to put Portugal through in the last minute of normal time while Portugal keeper Rui Patricio made superb saves to deny Jesus Navas and Andres Iniesta in extra-time.

The Spaniards had started better, and ought to have gone ahead from their first chance in the ninth minute when Manuel Negredo pulled the ball back for Alvaro Arbeloa to fire over the bar from the edge of the box.

Andres Iniesta blazed over from long range a minute later, but Portugal threatened in the 13th minute through Ronaldo, who beat Gerard Pique down the left before crossing towards Nani, with Iker Casillas jumping to make a crucial interception.

Paulo Bento's men had clearly wrested the upper hand, suffocating the Spanish midfield and worrying their opponents through the persistent threat of Ronaldo and Nani up front. But Spain still almost contrived the grab the lead against the run of play in the 29th minute, when Xavi's clever ball found Iniesta on the edge of the box, who rolled the ball onto his right foot before floating a shot inches over Rui Patricio's goal.

Within two minutes, Portugal had responded with an even better chance, Joao Moutinho's persistence paying off on the edge of the box as he set free Ronaldo to drill a low shot just wide of Casillas left hand post. Portugal's control continued into the second half, with Nani almost picking out the head of Hugo Almeida from a dangerous right wing cross, and it proved enough for Vicente Del Bosque, who replaced Negredo with Fabregas up front.

Almeida wasted a good chance in the 58th minute when he fired ambitiously over the Spanish bar instead of picking out Ronaldo or Nani, who were unmarked to his left and right respectively. Belatedly, Spain started to show signs of stirring, Xabi drilling a shot straight at Patricio from long range, but despite beginning to edge possession, chances continued to be few and far between.

Ronaldo, still terrorizing the Spanish defenders at every opportunity, fired a free-kick just over from 30 yards, but a game that had started brightly drifted into a dull spell in which neither side could serve up much of a threat.
Then came a glorious chance for Ronaldo in the last minute of normal time, when a Portuguese counter-attack saw Raul Meireles feed the Real Madrid man who fired over the bar from the left side of the box. The introduction of Pedro lent some urgency to the Spanish attack in extra-time, and his run set up a chance for Iniesta in the seventh minute of the extra half hour, but his low shot was blocked in the box.

The Portuguese were plainly tiring, and Spain had an even better chance in the 104th minute, when Jordi Alba's cross found Iniesta in front of goal but Patricio managed to flap his shot wide from six yards. Sergio Ramos slammed a long-range free-kick just over the bar before the end of the first period of extra-time, and Ramos was soon in critical action at the other end when cutting out a Fabio Coentrao ball meant for Ronaldo.

Substitute Jesus Navas was next to get the chance to break the deadlock in the 22nd minute of extra-time, picking up a ball from Arbeloa in the box and hitting a shot which Patricio did well to save down low. As Spain kept pressing, Pedro briefly burst clear before being caught by Fabio Coentrao, but by then there was a certain inevitability about a match that promised much but offered little heading to penalties.

Alonso had the first spot-kick saved by Patricio but Casillas evened things up by saving the first Portuguese penalty from Moutinho. Iniesta, Pepe, Pique, Nani and Sergio Ramos (who calmly copied Andrea Pirlo's 'Panenka' style spot-kick) all put away their penalties before Alves - who had inadvertently stepped up for the previous penalty which was eventually converted by Nani - hit the bar, leaving Fabregas to put Spain through.

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