Portugal are in the semi finals of Euro 16 after defeating Poland 5-3 on penalties at the Stade Velodrome on Thursday night.
Poland, going about their business very quietly in the tournament, came into the match with great confidence, while Portugal should have been feeling lucky to even make it that far, given their substandard performances leading up to the game.
It didn’t take long for things to open up, as Robert Lewandowski came up with a master strike with just one minute and 40 seconds gone. The Bayern Munich man capped off his well-timed run by smashing the ball past Rui Patricio after latching onto Kamil Grosicki’s low cross from the left side.
Lewandowski had gone eight games without scoring in the Euros for his country, with his only one coming against Greece back in 2012.
The big front-man kept the pressure on the Portuguese defence, getting himself another great shot all on his own in the box, despite being impeded. Patricio got the better of him this time, making the save at his near post.
Portugal threw in a bit of offense themselves, but found that they were dominated by the men in white, with Arkadiusz Milik, Lewandowski and Grosicki all making menaces of themselves.
Cristiano Ronaldo, however, would get off a neat shot from distance in the 29th minute, following a pass from Nani; but it was hit straight at Lukasz Fabianski.
The Real Madrid man went down in the box two minutes later after getting bundled over by Poland defender Michal Pazdan while a cross was coming in. Should have definitely been a penalty, yet the referee thought differently.
With another two minutes gone, Portugal would get their goal from none other than 18-year-old sensation Renato Sanches, who collected the ball off Nani’s pass with a great first touch to rocket a shot past the keeper from outside of the box.
With his goal, Sanches became the third-youngest player to register a goal at the Euros, but he was slightly fortunate as his shot had been deflected off Grzegorz Krychowiak.
After an exciting 45 minutes, the teams would head down the tunnel with the score tied at one apiece.
The second half didn’t start as brightly for either team, but Poland seemed the most up for it for the first 10 minutes of the period.
The best chance would fall to the Portuguese, though, when Nani released Ronaldo with a class through ball in the box. He should have probably thought about passing it back, but went for the shot from a tight angle, only to watch the ball hit the side netting.
Cedric Soares got the Portuguese support off their feet with a powerful shot from around 25 yards out in the 65th minute, but the Southampton man’s shot fizzed just wide.
Poland hit back with an attempt of their own, and Patricio had to come to the rescue with a save off Milik’s volley after the forward caught Artur Jedrzejczyk’s cross from the left side.
They seemed to close up shop towards the end of the match, with Portugal the only team looking keen to end things within the 90.
Ronaldo then wasted a glorious opportunity after making a great run as the ball was chipped over the defence, putting him one-on-one with the keeper. The Madrid forward swung a boot, yet amazingly failed to make any sort of contact with the begging ball.
With no one able to break the deadlock, the match would head into an extra thirty minutes.
Another chance would pass Portugal by, with Ronaldo failing to control a ball which came in from a cross two minutes into extra time.
Frustratingly, scores were still 1-1 after the first 15 minutes of the extra period. The only bit of entertainment would come in the form of a pitch invader, who was quickly dealt with by pitch security in the second half of extra time.
Still refusing to be separated at the end of extra time, the countries would have to endure a dreaded penalty shootout.
Ronaldo stepped up to take the first penalty, beating Fabianski with a powerful shot, having missed four of his last five for club and country. Lewandowski would be up next to convert for Poland with a coolly taken shot.
Sanches, scorer of the equalising goal, ran up and blasted one into the back of the net, showing no nerves whatsoever.
Milik, next up for Poland, smacked the pole with his shot, but still scored to keep things level. Joao Moutinho would hit for Portugal as well, retaking the lead.
Kamil Glik stepped up and scored to keep the nerves for his country. And Nani kept up the show with a brilliant shot, but Jakub Blaszczykowski would have his saved by an acrobatic Patricio.
Ricardo Quaresma came on to take the fifth, and snatched the win for the Portuguese, blasting his shot past the former Arsenal keeper to end things at last.