Euro 2016 | Cristiano Ronaldo fires Portugal into final past Wales
The semi-final between Portugal and Wales was billed as the Ronaldo vs Bale face-off, and it was Cristiano Ronaldo who came out on top to lead his side into the Euro final. The Portugal skipper scored the first and set up the second to take Portugal to a 2-0 win despite Bale's heroics for Wales.
Portugal (4-1-3-2): Rui Patricio; Cedric, Bruno Alves, Fonte, Guerreiro; Danilo; Joao Mario, Renato Sanches, Adrien Silva; Nani, Ronaldo.
Wales (3-5-1-1): Hennessey; Chester, Williams, Collins; Gunter, Allen, Ledley, King; Taylor; Bale; Robson-Kanu.
Wales, who have been having a dream run in the tournament, and Portugal, who have had a 'dreamy' run so far forgetting to score until it's 90 minutes, met in the semi-final today. Having lucked out to the easier half of the draw, both teams fancied their chances of reaching the final. However, it was the Bale vs Ronaldo battle that had grabbed headlines in the run-up to the event. Wales were without Aaron Ramsey, who has been the silent contributor to the team's campaign.
Even-steven first half
The match began with the battle of the captains – in the 3rd minute, Cristiano Ronaldo surged through the middle, but Ashley Williams took him down with a brilliant tackle right when Ronaldo threatened to look dangerous. Williams – 1, Ronaldo – 0. In the 7th minute, Joe Allen took a yellow card after losing the ball to Nani and immediately fouling him. Meanwhile, Wales were playing deep in an effort to curtail Portugal's crosses, and the ploy was working as Portugal held possession but mostly the useless kind as they kept pinging passes in the midfield.
After Portugal's early dominance, Wales came back strongly with Bale finally asserting himself at the stroke of the 20th minute. Cutting through the left, Bale sent a wonderful cross, but Joe King, who came in for Aaron Ramsey, could not get close enough to it. Bale made a move ahead again in the 23rd minute, but his solo run closed with the kick ending in a straightforward stop by goalie Rui Patricio.
Portugal blast past
The deadlock suddenly broke in the 50th minute. On a corner, Guerreiro received the first touch and curled the ball perfectly into the box for Ronaldo at the far post, who leapt miles high over Chester, who was guarding him, to head it perfectly into the right side of the goal. 1-0.
Sensing the sudden weakness, Portugal pressed hard to put the match to rest with another goal. Just 3 minutes later, they got it. Ronaldo was again at the center of action as he hit a low cross from the right side of the box into the crowd of players ahead. Even as Hennessey leapt to his right to cut off the ball, Nani intercepted the ball with a gentle slide to nudge it into the right side of the goal. 2-0
Portugal hold on
Portugal almost made it 3-0 in the 65th minute, but James Chester, who found himself at the end of a Nani long-range effort, scuffed it. Bale immediately created another chance at the other end, but Vokes could only meekly head his difficult cross and the ball ballooned safely away from the goal. In the 80th minute, Bale took a brilliant shot at goal, and the swerving ball confused Rui Patricio, who somehow managed to palm it away in the end. The Wales side was clearly missing Aaron Ramsey, whose unfortunate handball in the quarterfinal, may have made the difference today in a close match. Bale, as much as he tried to be everywhere, just could not achieve the impossible feat as Portugal, for the first time, managed a win in regular time – when it mattered the most.