Ronaldo was the hero once again as this Euro 2012 quarter final match finished Czech Republic 0 Portugal 1. Ciaran Bonass talks us through the match highlights.
Portugal were again indebted to an outstanding performance by Cristiano Ronaldo as they beat a gallant but dour Czech Republic 1-0 to claim the first semi-final spot at Euro 2012. Ronaldo scored the only goal of a game he grew into and eventually took by the scruff of the neck as he increasingly looks destined to do to the tournament as a whole.
The Czech’s, excluding the never-say-die performances from their two Petr’s, Cech and Jiracek, were hugely disappointing in front of a crowd made up of a sizeable proportion of their own fantastic supporters in Warsaw as manager Michal Bilek’s decision to adopt a stifling approach to curb the considerable threat Ronaldo posed saw them abandon their attacking principles and surrender any real prospect of winning the match along with it.
It was a defeatist attitude to take into a winner-takes-all encounter and one which seemed to only acknowledge that a penalty shootout was their most likely method of progress – their failure to register a single shot on target, and only two of any description, suggests just as much – and the only real moments of drama in the Portuguese penalty area came when Cech had joined the attack for an injury-time corner that came to nothing after a terribly over-hit delivery drifted far beyond the Chelsea goalkeeper and his distinctive headwear.
The identity of the winning team was in little doubt once the Portuguese players realised how little threat they were under at the back and they duly began to take a foothold on proceedings roughly halfway through the first half. The supply to Ronaldo up to that point had been limited but his give and go with Joao Moutinho in the 25th minute saw him put through for a strike which Cech saved , not realising the attacker had been harshly adjudged to have infringed defender Michal Kadlec before taking the shot. It seemed to only encourage Real Madrid’s goalscoring phenomenon though as he had three more efforts before the half was out which got progressively nearer to breaking the deadlock each time. Firstly he slightly misjudged the angles and his own position when attempting an acrobatic bicycle kick as Pepe’s header dropped to him in the area, next a well-struck free flashed wide and finally a spellbinding piece of skill that saw him control the ball on his chest, take two subtle but perfect touches to leave Kadlec hopelessly stranded on the deck and strike the foot of the post all in a split second.
That was almost the last kick of the first half and the game continued in much the same vein practically from the tip off in the second when Raul Meireles burst from midfield and fine cross was wastefully headed off target by the burly Hugo Almeida, who had replaced Helder Postiga up front when the Real Zaragoza striker went off with a hamstring injury. Ronaldo wasn’t to be out of the limelight for long though, another powerful, dipping free-kick beat Cech but hit the post – the fourth time the Portuguese captain has done so at Euro 2012 but he would not be denied for long. With the game nearing extra-time Nani found Moutinho making a break from midfield, his cross from the right was into a good area but didn’t look particularly dangerous until Ronaldo appeared from out of nowhere on the left to plant a meaty header into the ground and irresistably beyond Cech to earn his nation a worthy spot in the last four. It was his third goal of the tournament and it now looks to be a straight shootout between himself and Germany’s Mario Gomez for the golden boot award unless another contender emerges from the shadows – few would bet against the Portuguese talisman on current form.