Euro 2016 | Portugal beat Poland in dramatic penalty shootout to enter semis

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Euro 2016 | Portugal beat Poland in dramatic penalty shootout to enter semis

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Arun S Kaimal

07/01/2016

In a nail-biting finish at the Stade Velodrome, Portugal defeated Poland 5-3 on penalties to enter the semi-final of Euro 2016 on Thursday. Poland captain Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring in the second minute, before 18-year-old Renato Sanches scored in the 33rd minute to level things up.

Starting lineups:

Poland: Fabianski (GK), Piszczek, Glik, Pazdan, Jedrzejczyk; Blaszczykowski, Maczynski, Krychowiak, Grosicki, Milik, Lewandowski.

Portugal: Rui Patricio (GK), Cedric, Fonte, Pepe, Eliseu, W. Carvalho, Adrien, Joao Mario, Sanches, Nani, Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side entered the last-8 stage of the Euro 2016 after Ricardo Quaresma scored a 117th-minute goal against Croatia. Although they are yet to register a win in normal time in the tournament, Portugal holds a unique record of reaching all Euro quarter-finals since 1996. They arrived at the Stade Velodrome thinking about making it to their fourth semi-final in the last five Euros as they faced Poland. With Andre Gomes injured, manager Fernando Santos handed a start to youngster Renato Sanches.  

On the other hand, Poland reached their first quarter-final appearance in a major tournament since the 1982 World Cup after defeating Switzerland in penalties. Although,Robert Lewandowski failed to find the net in the last four matches, manager Adam Nawałka kept faith in the skipper and named an unchanged XI for the quarter-final match.

Lewandowski leads from the front

Before the match, all the talk was about Robert Lewandowski’s goal-less run. In the qualifying stage, the Bayern Munich striker found the net 13 times in 10 games, but four matches without goals in the main stage of the competition had raised questions about the 27-year-old’s quality to perform at the highest level. Two minutes, that is all he took to answer those questions. Portugal right-back Cedric misread the bounce of a Crossfield ball and gifted it to Grosicki who ran with the ball before pulling it back for Lewandowski in the centre. The striker made no mistake from close range and side-footed one past a diving Rui Patricio to give Poland the lead.

A Bayern Munich connection at Stade Velodrome

Lewandowski’s goal at the start opened up the game as both teams looked for more goals rather than sitting back. Portugal wanted the equaliser and pushed bodies forward to find one. This left the defence open, giving Lewandowski, Grosicki, Milik, and Blaszczykowski the opportunity to hit on the counter. The Bayern Munich striker ran the show in the first twenty minutes and it looked like Poland will run away with the game. But, a new addition to the Bayern Munch team changed the complexion of the match.

18-year-old Renato Sanches, who secured a big-money move from Benfica to Bayern Munich earlier in the summer, showed everyone why the German champions spent that kind of money by unleashing a left-footed thunderbolt from the edge of the box in the 33rd minute. The youngster started the move and passed the ball to Nani in the box. The winger then flicked the ball back to Sanches, and his left-footed shot took a deflection off a defender to beat Fabianski at the left-hand post.

Goal-shy second half

An end-to-end first forty-five ended with both teams deadlocked at 1-1. A similar goal-fest was expected in the second half with both teams displaying brilliant attacking play. Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo led their respective teams back on to the field for the second pitch, but it turned out to be a goal-shy half. Having seen the attacking threat of Lewandowski and co. in the first half, Portugal played a bit deep to keep the Bayern Munich striker under control.

On the other side, Ronaldo was the focus point, but apart from the few good touches here and there, the Real Madrid man struggled to find his goal-scoring form. As the match progressed, Portugal brought on Joao Moutinho, and the midfielder made an instant impact by setting up Ronaldo with a sensational overhead pass. However, the 31-year-old failed to get a good connection on the ball to steer towards the goal. Both teams failed to find the back of the net in the half, and the match went into the extra-time to decide the semi-finalist.

Portugal prevail in lottery

The 30 minutes of extra-time proved to be a repeat of the second half with the only difference being the arrival of a pitch invader in the 110th minute. The match went into penalties to decide the winner, and Cristiano Ronaldo buried the first one to the right side of Fabianski to put his team ahead. Poland captain Lewandowski also did the same for his team. Renato Sanches, Joao Moutinho, Nani then scored for Portugal, while Milik and Kamil Glik scored for Poland. But, Rui Patricio saved Blaszczykowski's penalty to put Portugal in front. Just like the last game, Quaresma emerged as the hero to take Portual forward smashing the ball past Fabianski to take Portugal into the last four.

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