Portugal progress after early scare

Ricardo Quaresma stepped up to take his penalty. Jakub Blaszczykowski had just missed, and he had the chance to send Portugal into the semi-finals then and there. It had been a dramatic night in Marseille, with Robert Lewandowski scoring the first goal inside five minutes to give Poland the lead before Portuguese young gun Renato Sanches scored just after the half-hour mark to level. The game had stayed that way to the end of normal time and throughout extra time, and in the end penalties were needed to separate the teams.

After 13 goals in qualifying Lewandowski had been very quiet in the tournament itself, and he had gone for four matches without scoring. He was not going to let that drought extend for another game, however, and he had put Poland ahead within two minutes. The two sides were both settling into the game, and the goal came out of the blue. It started with an innocuous cross-field ball from Lukasz Piszczek, which was intended for Kamil Grosicki but fell short. It found Grosicki anyway, as the ball bounced over Cedric, who had left Grosicki to cut out the pass. Lewandowski drifted away from Pepe, and his one-time finish from Grosicki’s cross left Rui Patricio helpless as it found the back of the net.

The goal changed the game and put the onus on the Portuguese to attack, but they kept turning the ball over in the final third. Poland had plenty of chances on the break, and the combination of Arkadiusz Milik and Lewandowski looked dangerous. Lewandowski was heavily involved, and he showed some of his class when he outmuscled Pepe on the edge of the box to get to Milik’s low cross. He found space to shoot, but he had been forced onto a tight angle and his shot was straight at Patricio. Portugal were trying to get Ronaldo involved in the game, but the Portuguese captain looked rushed and was bungling great opportunities. He found space when he beat a nervy Michal Pazdan on the edge of the box, but he shot from further out than he had to and the shot was comfortably saved by Lukasz Fabianski. He should have received a penalty moments later when Pazdan knocked him over as the pair competed for the ball, but referee Felix Brych waved play on, ignoring the obvious foul. Then Sanches scored, and Portugal had their equaliser.

It was a beautiful goal, a strike from range which took a slight deflection and left Fabianski helpless. Sanches played a nice pass into the box towards Nani, who played the ball back outside the box to the 18 year-old. Sanches was closed off immediately, but Grzegorz Krychowiak could only manage a small deflection and the long shot evaded Fabianski’s full length dive. Portugal had the supremacy, but for all their dominance of possession they continued to break down in attack. Half-time came, and it was still level.

The second half was all about Ronaldo. He was very active in the game and was finding some excellent chances, but he could not convert. He looked rushed and off his game. He made his way into a dangerous position in an attempt to receive a cross, but Fabianski came off his line to make the save. Nani set him up perfectly for a cross, but he shot instead and the ball ended up in the side netting. Nani’s cross to the centre was perfect, but the Portuguese captain was unable to hit it and it rolled off the back of his heel to the edge of the box. Poland had excellent chances as well, and they were more effective in attack, but it didn’t really matter as the Portuguese were in control of the game. Pepe burst out of defence to stop a Polish counter-attack and he played an excellent ball in the direction of Ronaldo. Artur Jedrzejczyk stopped the attack, but he nearly conceded an own goal as his sliding interception rolled past the goals. Ronaldo had another huge opportunity when he received a perfect ball from Joao Moutinho, but he took an air swing and allowed Fabianski to make an easy save.

Quaresma stepped back and eased the ball high into the right hand side of the net. Fabianski had gone the wrong way, and Portugal were able to celebrate. Ronaldo had failed to convert the best opportunity of extra time when he found a cross in a brilliant position and could not control it. From that point on, the most noteworthy incident was the momentary hold-up of play when a lone spectator charged onto the field, with security in hot pursuit. The game was destined for penalties, and the sides traded blows before Blaszczykowski’s miss. The former Polish captain stuttered slightly before taking the kick, but he failed to fool Patricio and the penalty was saved. Quaresma netted the winner and Portugal progressed to the semi-finals, looking nervous but getting the job done.

Marseille – Stade Velodrome
Poland 1 (Lewandowski 2)
Portugal 1 (Renato Sanches 33) (a.e.t, Portugal won 5-3 on penalties)
Referee: Felix Brych (Ger)

Poland (4-4-2): Fabianski – Piszczek, Glik, Pazdan, Jedrzejczyk; Blaszczykowski, Krychowiak, Maczynski (Jodlowiec 98), Grosicki (Kapustka 82); Milik, Lewandowski.
Portugal (4-1-3-2): Rui Patricio – Cedric, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Eliseu; William Carvalho (Danilo 96); Joao Mario (Quaresma 80), Renato Sanches, Adrien Silva (Joao Moutinho 74); Nani, Ronaldo.

Top 5
1. Pepe (Portugal)
Pepe was at his best, marshalling the Portuguese defence and getting into excellent positions. He struggled on a couple of occasions against Lewandowski, but he was solid at the back and did not look like allowing Poland through for a second goal. His distribution was good and he was a strong presence when he went forward for set pieces.
2. Kamil Glik (Poland)
Glik was excellent, blocking Portugal from getting through multiple times. He was able to block plenty of crosses and he provided a calmness in defence which his teammates did not. He controlled the ball well when Poland needed to take the heat out of the game, and he showed all of experience in taking the game to a shoot-out.
3. Renato Sanches (Portugal)
Sanches was excellent in the centre of midfield, scoring Portugal’s only goal and showing maturity beyond his years. He was the most dangerous player on the field when he had the ball at his feet, and he put plenty of pressure on the Polish defence. His goal was excellent, both for the finish and for the interplay that set it up.
4. Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
Lewandowski was under pressure to perform, and he was Poland’s most dangerous player in attack. He finished well from a tough position to put Poland in front, and his effort was flawless throughout. He chased the ball well and was a massive threat for the Portuguese when he found space on the break. He played well, and capped off an excellent game by slotting his penalty home.
5. William Carvalho (Portugal)
Carvalho was the rock at the heart of the Portuguese midfield, and he worked very hard to ensure Portugal were on top in the middle. He cut off plenty of Polish attacks, and while he was unable to hurt going the other way he was clinical in his ball use and he found good options. He will be suspended for the semi-final after picking up a booking, but he can take comfort from the fact that he was a key reason for Portugal’s progression.

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