Euro 2012: Spain progress on penalty kicks to send Portugal home

Spain’s players celebrate after winning the penalty shootout against Portugal. Picture Credit: AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev

Spain secured a place in their third successive international final with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over Iberian rivals Portugal.

The two sides were unable to be separated over 120 minutes in Donetsk, in what proved a tense and nervous affair between two usually attacking sides.

Locked at 0-0 after extra time, Bruno Alves cannoned Portugal’s fourth penalty of the crossbar, awarding match point to Spain.

Substitute Cesc Fabregas made no mistake in stroking his spot kick off the post and in, sending the reigning Champions into their second successive European final.

Before the game Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque sprung the surprise of fielding Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo as his lone front man, as opposed to Fernando Torres or Fabregas, who had both netted twice in the competition.

Negredo, however, was involved in Spain’s best chance of the opening period.

The brilliant Andres Iniesta picked out Negredo in the area, who in turn poked the ball back to Alvaro Arbeloa, but the full-back side footed his effort over the crossbar.

Meanwhile, Portugal looked menacing going forward, as their high pressure approach seemed to rattle Spain’s usual fluent passing game.

Their brave approach was just about rewarded in the first half as the impressive Joao Moutinho caught the Spanish in possession, and slipped it through to Cristiano Ronaldo, whose effort skimmed just wide.

Unfortunately for the neutral, the tempo significantly dropped in the second half, with both sides recording just one shot on target each.

As extra-time looked inevitable, Ronaldo could have won it for Portugal but his late effort on the counter attack was blazed over.

With both teams tiring during the additional half an hour, it was the holders that always looked more likely to score and Iniesta’s side-footed effort was pushed away brilliantly by Rui Patricio.

Substitute Jesus Navas made one final push for Spain as he fired across Patricio’s goal before seeing his strike parried off Pepe and back into the goalkeeper’s thankful hands.

After a goalless 120 minutes it would be the dreaded penalty shoot-out that would decide who took part in Sunday’s showpiece final.

First up for Spain was quarter-final hero Xabi Alonso. His kick was saved by Patricio only for Iker Casillas to save his blushes, repeating the feat from Moutinho’s effort.

Both sides kept their cool for another two rounds, which saw Iniesta, Pepe, Gerard Pique and Nani all score, before Sergio Ramos’s outrageous Pirlo-esque chip put the Spaniards in front once more.

Bruno Alves, who had been sent back from the penalty spot before Nani took his kick, crashed his effort hard off the crossbar and out, leaving Spain with the opportunity to wrap it up with their next kick.

Fabregas, dropped in favour of Negredo before the game, coolly placed the ball off the post and in, prompting wild celebration’s from La Roja and dismay among the Portuguese, who must be wondering why captain Ronaldo never took a penalty.

With this victory, Spain set a new record for most consecutive matches unbeaten at European Championship’s at 11, while also keeping their knock-out stage clean sheet run going. They haven’t conceded a goal in the knock out stages of a major tournament since their defeat to France at the 2006 World Cup.

Spain will now look to become the first team to successfully defend their European crown against either Germany or Italy in Kiev on Sunday.

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