Cesc Fabregas scores the decisive kick as Spain beat Portugal on penalties to reach Final
Portugal 0-0 Spain (AET)
Spain win 4-2 on penalties
Wednesday 27 June 2012
Cesc Fabregas stole the headlines for Spain as he scored the crucial penalty to help the defending champions reach the European Championship Final once again.
Nothing could separate the two teams over the ninety minutes and even through extra-time, the game was always seemed to be heading for the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves were the villains for Portugal as they both missed their penalties and it was left to Fabregas to hit the ball in off the post to help Spain celebrate a famous victory and secure a place in their third consecutive major Final. Spain will now face the winners of Germany and Italy in in Kiev on Sunday night.
The first-half was almost a personal battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta in a bid to show which was the most influential player. Iniesta was the architect of the game's first chance when he cut in from the left in the ninth minute before squaring the ball, only to see Alvaro Arbeloa hit it first-time and over the bar from 20 yards.
Iniesta tried his luck from long range moments later, but his shot was high and wide.
Ronaldo had hardly touched the ball by this stage, but after 13 minutes he burst down the left and crossed from the byline, only for Iker Casillas to get the ball just ahead of Hugo Almeida, in for the injured Helder Postiga.
Minutes later Arbeloa brought Ronaldo down on the left, but the Real Madrid star hit his free-kick straight into Spain's defensive wall.
It was starting to turn into the Cristiano Ronaldo show as he hit a spectacular volley on the turn high over the bar, and then shot just wide of the post on the half-hour mark after Joao Pereira seized on a loose ball from the Spanish, who were struggling to get their passing game together.
By half time, Portuguse manager Paulo Bento would have been happier than Vicente Del Bosque, having seen his side show more adventure than the Spanish, and upset the rhythm of the World Champions with their pressing game.
Del Bosque sent on Cesc Fabregas for the disappointing Negredo, and the former Arsenal man fired over the bar. Iniesta and Xavi had efforts saved, Ronaldo put two free-kicks over the bar and then missed a golden chance in the final minutes of normal time, shooting high over on the break.
In stoppage time, Patricio saved well form Iniesta's close range shot and then from Jesus Navas, and fellow substitute Pedro wasted a chance on the break for Spain.
The game went to penalties and it looked as if it might not be Spain’s night after Xabi Alonso saw the first spot kick saved by Patricio.
But the nerves seem to be affecting all the players as Moutinho also missed his penalty. Iniesta, Pepe and Pique all converted before there was a bizarre incident when both Alves and Nani went forward to take the next penalty.
It was Nani’s turn to strike the penalty home and after Ramos converted in the cheekiest of fashion when he dinked the ball over the Portuguese keeper, you could sense the nerves in Alves as he went forward once again.
The Portugal defender struck his penalty against the bar and it was left to Fabregas to ram the ball home off the inside of the far post to help Spain book their place in the Final.
12 Patricio, 21 Pereira. 2 Alves, 3 Pepe, 5 Coentrao, 16 Meireles (18 Varela 111) , 4 Veloso 6 Custodia 105) , 8 Moutinho, 17 Nani, 9 Almeida (11 Oliveira 80), 7 Ronaldo,
1 Casillas, 17 Arbeloa, 3 Pique, 15 Ramos, 18 Alba, 16 Busquets, 8 Xavi (7 Pedro 85), 14 Alonso, 21 Silva (22 Navas 76), 11 Negredo (10 Fabregas 54) , 6 Iniesta.
Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)