x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Euro 2012: Portugal 0 Spain 0 (Spain win 4-2 on penalties)

Cristiano Ronaldo is left a bystander as Spain secure win from the penalty spot to advance to the Euro 2012 final.

Spain's Alvaro Arbeloa, centre, tries to get the ball past Portugal's Miguel Veloso, left, and Fabio Coentrao. Spain eventually survived 4-2 on penalty kicks to advance to the Euro 2012 final.
Spain's Alvaro Arbeloa, centre, tries to get the ball past Portugal's Miguel Veloso, left, and Fabio Coentrao. Spain eventually survived 4-2 on penalty kicks to advance to the Euro 2012 final.

DONETSK, UKRAINE // Spain remain on course for a unique treble of major championship titles after beating Portugal on penalties late Wednesday night.

The World Cup winners and defending European champions could not be separated from their courageous Iberian neighbours after 120 minutes at the Donbass Arena.

Yet a miss by Bruno Alves, the heroic Portugal defender, followed by a successful spot-kick by Cesc Fabregas sent the holders through.

It was already Thursday by the time they secured their place in Sunday night's final in Kiev.

Whether they can recover from the strain of this exhausting effort to challenge the winner of Thursday night's meeting of Germany and Italy is another matter.

At least they are there.

Defeat was harsh on the Portuguese, however, who had refused to concede any quarter to their celebrated opponents.

For all the promise Portugal showed in the first 30 minutes, when they were much the better team, it was the Spaniards who had the best chances.

Alvaro Arbeloa, the right-back, blazed the first opening over the bar, while Andres Iniesta, the pint-size winger, placed a curling effort inches to high.

The fact they were not getting the breaks their endeavours deserved led the Portuguese to become irritable, however.

Half time came at just the right time for Paulo Bento's men, as Fabio Coentrao, their outstanding left-back, picked up a booking for kicking the ball away.

Pepe and Bruno Alves, the centre-halves, were livid, and let it show in their next few challenges.

Pepe was booked after the restart for kneeing Xabi Alonso, his Real Madrid teammate, in the back during an aerial challenge, while Alves looked like a yellow card waiting to happen.

Nani, too, had reason to be fed up. Portugal's right-winger had the measure of Jordi Alba, his marker, and Sergio Ramos, the centre-back, yet got no change from the officials when he was brusquely halted a variety of times.

It was a game with plenty of spite - Pepe, Ramos, and Joao Pereira all had goes at goading stricken players while they were on the floor.

And every so often, football broke out, too.

Vicente del Bosque, Spain manager, had opted to field a genuine striker this time, but neither of the Fernandos - Torres or Llorente - might have been expected to figure among the first choices.

Instead he plumped for Alvaro Negredo, the Sevilla striker, who had won all 11 matches he had played for Spain before last night, scoring six goals in the process.

The experiment did not last much past half-time, though.

No doubt spooked by how well Portugal were doing, Del Bosque swapped Negredo for Cesc Fabregas, the midfielder, in an attempt to exact more control, to negligible effect.

Portugal had also had a change of plan forced on them up front, as Hugo Almeida had come in to replace the injured Helder Postiga.

Whereas Postiga had been shot-shy - and just shy in general - in this tournament, Almeida seldom needed a second invite to let fly.

The burly Besiktas forward had three good shooting chances at the start of the second phase. The fact he squandered each of them led to inquiring glares from both Nani and Ronaldo.

For all Almeida's profligacy - and he was soon replaced, anyway, by Nelson Oliveira - Ronaldo was not much better. He had three goes from set pieces, and passed up each.

And he had comfortably the best chance of normal time, when Portugal broke mob-handed after clearing a late Spain free kick.

It seemed a certainty, but he flashed wide.

It was all indicative of Portugal's growing self-belief, though.

They had the Spanish rattled.

When Alonso tried a shot from his own half midway through the second half, it might have appeared as though Spain were getting desperate.

He does have pedigree from that range though, and had tried something similar during his individual masterclass against France at this ground on Saturday night.

The game meandered into extra time, during which the clearest of chances fell to Iniesta.

Like Ronaldo before him it seemed totally unfeasible he would fail to score, but Rui Patricio, the goalkeeper, nudged his attempt away.

pradley@thenational.ae

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