Ronaldo beats Bale as Portugal reach Euro 2016 final

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo scored first and set up the second as Portugal beat Wales 2-0 in their Euro 2016 semi-final clash in Lyon last night.

The pre-match hype was on two Real Madrid superstars going head-to-head as Ronaldo and Gareth Bale lined up on opposite sides.  Bookmakers were favouring Portugal heading into the game, whilst many pundits were leaning towards Wales.

After a cagey opening first half in which neither goalkeeper was troubled, Ronaldo planted a bullet header into the net only five minutes after the break.  It was the 31-year-old’s ninth goal in the history of the competition, making him the all-time top scorer in the tournament with Michel Platini.  It was also a record 20th appearance at a European Championship finals.

Three minutes after the opener and it was a scuffed effort from Ronaldo that former-Manchester United teammate Nani turned home from close range after Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made a needless dive away from the ball.

The Real Madrid superstar has now been involved in three of Portugal’s four goals in the knockout stages having see his saved effort fall into the path of Ricardo Quaresma during their 1-0 extra-time win over Croatia.  Ronaldo also scored twice in their final group game, drawing 3-3 with Hungary.

This is the first time Portugal have won in 90 minutes this summer and they defended very well, just as they did versus Croatia in the second round.  This despite manager Fernando Santos starting with the centre-back partnership of José Fonte and Bruno Alves for the first time in this tournament.  Despite dropping Pepe, Portugal kept the likes of Bale and Hal Robson-Kanu at bay.

Wales offered very little threat in the second half as Portugal squandered good possession and territory to create chances for a third.  Suspended Aaron Ramsey was sorely missed in the centre of the park as new Bayern Munich signing Renato Sanches put on another impressive display.

Gareth Bale was never a real threat on Rui Patrício’s goal, despite showing some glimpses what he is capable of, in the first half.  In truth, Wales have had better performers this summer than the world record transfer holder but this was a game they could have done with him rising to the occasion.

It was Ronaldo’s night as he will now lead his team into a second European Championship final.  Manager Santos has his full squad available on Sunday to face the winner of this evening’s match between France and Germany.  It will be interesting to see who he goes with in defence having started four different centre-backs during the tournament.

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