Portugal beat Poland on penalties to enter Euro semis

Cristiano-RonaldoMarseille, (IANS) Portugal beat Poland 5-3 via a penalty shoot-out to reach the semi-finals of the European football championships after the two sides were deadlocked at 1-1 after the extra time here.

During the penalty kicks on Friday, Poland won the coin toss, but opted to let Portugal shoot first. Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to step into the box and made no mistake by sending the keeper the wrong way, reports Efe.

The sides were even through three kicks and Nani delivered the fourth for Portugal before Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio stopped star midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski to put his side ahead 4-3. Ricardo Quaresma then converted to make it 5-3.

Next up for Portugal will be the winner of Friday’s quarter-final between host nation France and dark horse Wales.

Portugal have become the first team to reach a European Championship semi-finals without winning a game in 90 minutes. They collected three draws from group stage and eliminated Slovakia with a last minute goal from Quaresma in the extra time in the round of 16, reports Xinhua.

This is the fifth time Portugal have reached the semi-finals in their seven appearances.

At the start of the match, the Poles took a 1-0 lead in the second minute as Kamil Grosicki broke free down the left side and delivered a cross to Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, who fired the ball into the net for his first goal of the tournament.

Falling behind early rattled Portugal, whose first shot on goal came shortly before the half-hour mark, a weak effort from Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo that created no problems for Poland keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

But of instead of moving in for the kill, the Polish squad retreated to wait for a chance on the counter-attack or a random deep ball to Lewandowski.

Portugal gradually worked their way back into the match. Three minutes after the referee failed to call Poland’s Michal Pazdan for a foul on Ronaldo, the teenage Renato Sanches equalised for Portugal in the 33rd minute.

Sanchez, who will be joining Lewandowski at Bayern in August after being snapped with a fee of 35 million euros, beat Fabianski with help from a deflection after taking a fine pass from Nani.

The pace slowed considerably in the second half and both sides went into safety-mode in the closing minutes of regulation.

Nani and Poland’s Arkadiusz Milik had chances in the first overtime, but the most exciting moment of the second overtime was when a fan rushed onto the pitch and tried to embrace Portuguese captain Ronaldo.

After which the penalty shoot-out followed and as did Portugal’s win.

“Penalties are a lottery but you have to show a lot of character,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “I knew that Poland were great at spot-kicks because they won on penalties in the last round but I told my players to stay calm because I knew they would score.

He added: “Poland started really well but I had a strategy with William Carvalho, Renato Sanches and Adrien Silva closing their players down.

“We let them take over the game for a bit and we weren’t able to control Milik, so I spoke to Renato Sanches to change things and asked Nani to drop a bit deeper.”

Medaram Jathara

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