Portugal get past Poland and into Euro 2016 semis via penalties
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | June 30, 2016
Poland 1-1 Portugal AET
Portugal win 5-3 on penalties
- Lewandowski nets opener inside two minutes
- Sanches strikes back before half-time
- Second 45 is more cat-and-mouse, so extra 30 needed
- Still no winner, so spot-kicks to separate Poles and Portuguese
- Blaszczykowski misses crucial pen, Navigators through to Euros semis again
Navigators plot course to semi-finals via spot-kicks
Portugal made a second successive European Championship semi-final with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out win over Poland, after Robert Lewandowski’s early strike was cancelled out by talented teenager Renato Sanches during normal time.
The Navigators edged through another close contest at Euro 2016 with Jakub Blaszczykowski’s spot-kick being saved, allowing last 16 hero Ricardo Quaresma to once again win a knockout tie.
White Eagles soar to early advantage
Poland made the perfect start in Marseille by taking the lead inside two minutes with the Navigators switching off due to play being spread, and Rennes winger Kamil Grosicki found Lewandowski to fire in his near-post left-wing cross.
Neither Portuguese anchorman William Carvalho nor his central defensive colleagues were marking Bayern Munich’s lethal marksman. Lewandowski last scored for his country in October, but reminded punters of the old adage about form being temporary and class permanent.
Fernando Santos saw a muted response to falling behind, and the White Eagles looked to catch his Iberian outfit on the break with Arkadiusz Milik dragging a potshot from distance wide.
Lewandowski then out-muscled Pepe and got a shot away from a tight angle that Rui Patricio easily had covered. The Polish approach was to move the ball quickly and get the ageing Navigators defence on the back-foot as often as possible.
With Portugal completely asleep to a quickly-taken corner, rumoured Everton target Grosicki’s miscued centre deflated what had been a slick, interchanging move.
No pen for Ronaldo, Sanches strikes
Star man Cristiano Ronaldo wasted a free-kick at the other end, but he also went down underMichal Pazdan’s challenge which looked like a shoulder in the back.
Referee Felix Brych was unmoved by the incident on half an hour, however, yet the Navigators levelled out of nothing shortly afterwards through latest prodigy Sanches.
He exchanged passes with Nani around the edge of Poland’s box and Sanches cracked a deflected first senior international goal past the diving Lukasz Fabianski.
Patricio then flapped at a Grosicki cross, but Portugal survived this shaky moment from their goalie to preserve parity going into half-time.
Second-half short on clear sights
Luksaz Piszczek looked to combine with former Borussia Dortmund teammate Lewandowski shortly after the interval, but the latter’s diving header went straight at Patricio.
Nani fed Ronaldo in the channel as Portugal overloaded the left flank, but the national captain fired into the side-netting with Joao Mario breaking from midfield square.
Southampton full back Cedric Soares also let fly from long-range, lashing across the bows of Fabianski just after the hour mark, perhaps trying to impress new club coach Claude Puel.
Milik’s improvised finish with a quarter of normal time to go brought another reaction stop from Patricio as Poland continued to create the more clear cut chances. Grosicki then fluffed his lines, blazing over from a fair way out.
Edgy extra time
Jose Fonte’s set-piece header was easy for Fabianski in the Polish goal, while a speculative Pepe effort subsequently trickled just wide when diverting off Artur Jedrzejczyk, so this tie ended all square after 90 minutes.
Eliseu’s delivery up from left back evaded Navigators skipper and star turn Ronaldo early on in extra time. It became a cagey contest thereafter and, unlike their last 16 victory over Croatia, there was no dramatic winner for Santos’ side.
A tired White Eagles outfit under Adam Nawalka settled for penalties and taking their chances from 12 yards, with so little left in their legs and tanks.
The only exciting moment of the additional half hour was a pitch invasion, who made a beeline for Ronaldo before being tackled by stewards and eventually escorted from the pitch.
Ronaldo sent Fabianski the wrong way and Lewandowski rolled the first Polish penalty, then Sanches smashed his kick into the top corner with Milik going the same side but scoring low.
Portugal sub Joao Moutinho made it five consecutive successes in the shoot-out and Kamil Glik took the tally to six, three apiece. Nani’s composed finish gave the Navigators an advantage because Blaszczykowski’s effort was tipped away by Patricio, leaving Quaresma to win the quarter-final.
Coral have now cut the Portuguese into 9/2 chances (from 13/2) to win Euro 2016 outright, but unless they can demonstrate winning credentials without resorting to last-gasp drama the victor between Belgium and Wales, who await in the semis, will feel confident of making the final.