Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal and inadvertently set up the other as Portugal ground out a 2-0 win over Wales on Wednesday to march into the Euro 2016 final.
The Portuguese superstar, who has had to soak up a lot of criticism for a lacklustre tournament by his high standards, majestically powered in a 50th-minute header to put his side in front.
Ronaldo then saw his shot turned in by Nani for a second goal three minutes later, ending Wales’ remarkable run at their first major finals since 1958.
— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) 6 July 2016
The Portuguese, who had not won a single game in the tournament over 90 minutes, next meet hosts France or Germany who play their semi-final on Thursday.
“We’ve been dreaming about this from the start,” Ronaldo told reporters. “We knew it would be a long way but we’ve fought all the way.”
— Ben Davies (@Ben_Davies33) 6 July 2016
Wales kept their opponents quiet in the first half but could not recover the two-goal deficit, ending a scintillating run that has captivated millions back home and turned their players into heroes.
The Welsh, with midfielder Aaron Ramsey suspended and replaced by Leicester City’s Premier League winner Andy King, had an early spell of possession but a tight Portugal defence kept them at bay.
Portugal, bidding for their first Euro final since losing on home soil to Greece in 2004, had their first chance in the 16th minute, a low drive by Joao Mario after a clever flick from Ronaldo.
OVER THE BAR
Wales responded as Joe Ledley found Gareth Bale with a low corner and the forward fired over the bar.
The Welsh, playing their first major tournament semi-final, did not suffer from stage fright with their back line, supported by midfielders Ledley and Joe Allen, remaining disciplined and compact.
In a cagey first half Portugal struggled to find Ronaldo, opting for long crosses into the box that were easy pickings for central defender James Collins.
Portugal injected some urgency after the break, pressing high up the field.
It paid off instantly with a corner in the 50th minute that Raphael Guerreiro floated in towards the far post where Ronaldo climbed high above two defenders to power his third goal of the competition.
They doubled their lead with Nani sliding into the box to connect with Ronaldo’s mishit shot and claim his third goal of the tournament.
Wales were then lucky not to concede more goals as Portugal, now unbeaten in 13 competitive matches, continued to dream of a maiden international trophy.
“We are massively disappointed obviously but we have given everything on and off the pitch,” said Welsh talisman Bale. “We tried our hardest to get back in the game.
“They shut up shop well but we have no regrets. We are very proud….nobody expected us to get this far but we did.”