Brave Portugal hold nerve in penalty drama against Poland

Portugal survived a shoot-out drama to beat Poland 5-3 on penalties in last night’s Euro 2016 quarter-final. It was a night where Renato Sanches demonstrated why Manchester United tried — and ultimately failed — to beat Bayern Munich to his signature with a spectacular solo goal for Portugal.

United thought they had landed the 18-year-old attacking midfielder from Benfica earlier this year, but the Germans trumped them with a fee of over €30m that could rise to €70m ultimately.

It was easy to see why the teenager is so highly rated, when he scored a deflected equaliser in the 33rd minute after Robert Lewandowski had opened the scoring — and his own account at Euro 2016 — with the quickest goal of the tournament.

Poland were in control of the game before Sanches scored, and with Cristiano Ronaldo having another game where nothing went his way, this first quarter-final went to extra time.

Lewandowski had not scored a goal in his previous four matches at the tournament, but in Marseille he found the net after only 100 seconds, beating Robbie Brady’s penalty against France as the quickest goal of the tournament. The move started when Southampton defender Cedric misjudged a long crossfield ball from the right, allowing Poland’s left winger Kamil Grosick to run on and cross. He cut the ball back towards the penalty spot and Lewandowki met it with a perfectly-executed sidefoot volley, giving Rui Patricio no chance.

It was his 35th goal for his country, and he almost made it 36 when he beat Jose Fonte to Arkadiiusz Milik’s cross and fired an angled shot that Patricio saved at full stretch. Poland were good value for their lead at this point, with Milik going close twice, shooting wide from 25 yards and then having a fierce shot blocked by Pepe.

Portugal struggled to make inroads as Grzegorz Krychowiak orchestrated Poland’s play from a deep midfield role, happy to keep possession and frustrate the Portuguese. Ronaldo was certainly frustrated when he was denied what appeared to be a clear-cut penalty after 30 minutes, as he was bundled over eight yards from goal by defender Michael Pazdan, but German referee Felix Brych was unmoved and waved play on.

It only took Portugal three more minutes before they equalised, however.

Sanches was in Portugal’s first 11 for the first time at Euro 2016, becoming the tournament’s youngest starter, and then he became the youngest scorer in the knockout stages, when he shot home brilliantly in the 33rd minute. The 18-year-old got the ball on the right, played a one-two with Nani, and hit a deflected shot past Lukasz Fabianski from 20 yards. Jose Mourinho must have been wondering what might have been if United had brought his young compatriot to Old Trafford.

But for another United old boy, Ronaldo, it was one of those nights. The indications of a frustrating night were there from the 10th minute when he had a well-struck volley blocked from close range.

Shortly afterwards, he tried his luck from a free-kick 40 yards out, but hit it straight into the Polish wall.

The Real Madrid man should have had a penalty on the half-hour when he appeared to be pushed to the ground by centre-back Michael Pazdan as he prepared to meet Nani’s cross form the left, but German referee Felix Brych waved play on.

But Ronaldo’s luck did not improve as he chased the goal that would take him level with Michel Platini’s all-time record of nine goals in European Championship finals. Early in the second half he mis-hit one shot from six yards, the ball striking his standing leg, and then smashed another chance wildly into the side-netting when Joao Mario was screaming for it at the far post.

He was body-checked by Kamil Glik when he tried to run in on goal, and then saw a pass that was heading his way diverted by defender Artur Jedrzejczyk and almost past Fabianski, eventually trickling wide of the far post.

But Ronaldo’s most embarrassing moment came five minutes from the end of normal time when he ran into the penalty area in a bid to convert Joao Moutinho’s lofted pass and hit an air-shot, missing the ball completely with the goal at his mercy.

Chances came and went before extra-time was reached. Fonte had a chance for Portugal but put his header straight at Fabianski from close range, and then his defensive partner Pepe headed over the bar.

Milik shot just wide from long range in the first period of extra-time, as the night sky over Marseille got darker.

POLAND:

4-4-2 Fabianski 6; Piszczek 7, Glik 6, Pazdan 6, Jedrzejczyk 7; Blaszczykowski 6, Kruchowiak 7, Maczynski 6, Grosicki 7; Milik 7, Lewandowski 6.

Subs:

Kaputska for Grosicki 73, Jodlowiec for Maczyski 98

PORTUGAL:

4-1-3-2 Patricio 6; Cedric 5, Fonte 6, Pepe 7, Eliseu 6; W Carvalho 6; Joao Mario 6, Sanches 8, Adrien 6; Nani 7, Ronaldo 5.

Subs:

Moutinho for Adrien73, Quaresma for Joao Mario 80, Danilo for Carvalho 96

Referee:

Felix Brych (Germany)

Here’s a little extra sport: BallTalk TV look ahead to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.

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