Portugal absolutely dominated the second half against the Czechs, and it was only a matter of time before they broke the deadlock. A Cristiano Ronaldo diving header booked them the first Euro 2012 semi final berth.
Portugal defeated the Czech Republic on Thursday in the first game of the Euro 2012 knock-out phases.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner in a game where he hit the frame of Petr Cech's goal twice. Impressive midfield string-puller Joao Moutinho assisted the Portuguese goal.
In a sense, the game was decided in the opening seconds after the half-time break, when Portugal immediately created a couple of chances and set the tone for a dominant second period.
The Czechs had appeared to be keeping pace in the first 45 minutes, despite making few attacking inroads. The game was goalless, possession was reasonably evenly split, and the Czechs were clearly winning the aerial battles. Coach Michal Bilek's problems were only really displayed at the break by the rather low pass completion rate his side had managed.
Once the second period began, it became apparent that star goalie Petr Cech was in for another difficult day between the sticks. Portugal piled on the pressure, starting to dominate proceedings.
Superstar forward Ronaldo took eight shots and a total of five Portuguese players took as many shots in the game - or more - than the two managed by the entire Czech team. Cech's opposite number Rui Patricio in the Portuguese goal did not have to make a single save.
In the space of a few minutes, Ronaldo hit the post for a second time, Raul Meireles missed an easy one from close range, Moutinho forced Cech into a spectacular save from distance - and substitute striker Hugo Almeida had a headed goal disallowed for offside. It was only a matter of time before the Czech dam broke.
The goal finally fell in the 79th minute. Right winger Nani set the wheels in motion, timing a lovely ball to playmaker Joao Moutinho, who lofted another ball into the Czech box from the right. Czech right-back Theodor Gebre Selassie lost track of Ronaldo at the far post, and the Real Madrid man made no mistake with his diving header.
The scorer Ronaldo and the architect Moutinho were perhaps the clearest candidates for man of the match. Moutinho's passing was exemplary throughout in the middle of the park, while Ronaldo was creating shots seemingly at will. He hit the post once in open play and once from a long-range free-kick, he narrowly missed with a spectacular overhead kick and was his typically twinkle-toed self throughout the game.
Portugal will face either France or Spain in the semis. Those two teams play on Saturday. The next Euro 2012 quarter final is played in Gdansk on Friday, when Germany take on Greece.
Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Richard Connor