Portugal 0-0 Spain AET (2-4 on Penalties) – Match Review

Spain celebrate at Euro 2012Cesc Fabregas struck the winning penalty for Spain as they made it to the Euro 2012 final after a dramatic shootout victory over Portugal at the Donbass Arena.

Following a goalless 120 minutes the two nations’ fate would be decided by the lottery of penalties with Barcelona midfielder Fabregas tucking away the decisive spot kick via the post after Bruno Alves has smashed his off the bar just moments earlier. It proved to be a thrilling finale to a game that could be considered one the dullest at the tournament so far. That is unlikely to bother Spain as they booked their place in Sunday’s final and kept their hopes alive of defending the trophy they won in 2008.

Portugal, in particular Cristiano Ronaldo, will be disappointed that they failed to see out the game in normal time having been the better team but failed to suitably test Vincente Del Bosque’s men. The World and European champions were clearly out of tune failing to settle into this usual passing rhythm as Portugal pressed the midfield areas using their physicality to good effect.

Spain’s best chance of troubling Paulo Bento’s side was down the wing and left back Jordi Alba had the warning signs blaring as he teed up Alvaro Arbeloa to thump an effort over the bar after being played in by Andres Iniesta. Ronaldo soon started influence proceedings rampaging past Gerard Pique like he wasn’t there and sending a teasing cross towards Nani that was plucked off his head by Iker Casillas.

The Real Madrid attacker then went close with a left foot snap shot before a rare attack from Spain saw Xavi and Iniesta combining for the latter to curly just over just before the break. Seeing that his team were struggling to breach the Portugal back four Del Bosque rang the changes with ineffectual pair Alvaro Negredo and David Silva replaced by Fabregas and Jesus Navas.

Stretching the play seemed to work for La Roja as Xavi started to find pockets of space in the midfield embarking on a dribble that showcased his poise and close control before firing straight at Rui Patricio. Portugal began to visibly tire as the second period wore on although Ronaldo went close driving a free-kick just over the bar repeating the trick in injury time.

Portugal then broke at speed but Raul Meireles’s pas to Ronaldo was weak forcing the captain to drag a shot agonisingly wide as extra time loomed on the horizon. Xavi was surprisingly replaced by Pedro as fatigue started to effect both teams with Spain having the best chance to steal victory when Alba picked out Iniesta’s run only for the midfielder to see his close range strike pushed around the post by Patricio. Sergio Ramos then thumped a free kick just over the bar before Patricio was called into action again by Navas.

Fabregas then played Pedro through on goal but the winger didn’t have the legs to outpace the Portugal defence and it would boil down to penalties to decide who would progress to the final in Kyiv. Xabi Alonso and Joao Moutinho respectively saw their penalties saved first before Iniesta, Pique and Pepe converted from 12-yards.

Bruno Alves then stepped up for Portugal but was inexplicably called back by Nani who buried his spot kick followed by Sergio Ramos mimicking Andrea Pirlo’s ‘paneka’ penalty from the quarter final win over England on Sunday. Alves then stepped up but was clearly disturbed at being replaced in the order smashing the ball off the bar allowing Fabregas to score and send Spain into the final.