Euro 2012: Ronaldo is class apart

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the winning goal.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the winning goal.
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Czech Republic 0 Portugal 1. Cristiano Ronaldo headed Portugal into the semi-finals of the European Championships at the expense of the Czech Republic in Warsaw last night.

The Real Madrid forward had twice hit the woodwork and seen his side have a goal chalked out for offside before he arrived on cue in the six-yard box to nod in Joao Moutinho’s cross on 79 minutes.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo in action.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo in action.

The Czechs – with captain Tomas Rosicky, the Arsenal midfielder, only on the bench because of an Achilles injury –had started brightly, but lacked a decisive move in the final third.

It had been a decent opening from Michal Bilek’s side as Petr Jiracek drilled the ball in from 20 yards, but his effort was blocked by Real Madrid defender Pepe.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento named an unchanged side having beaten Holland to qualify behind Germany out of the ‘Group of Death’ for the last eight.

Manchester United winger Nani and Madrid star Ronaldo, who would miss the semi-final if he picked up another caution, were the most lively for the Portuguese.

On 17 minutes, the Czech Republic, who overcame a 4-1 defeat in their opening game against Russia to win Group A, broke quickly down the right and Vladimir Darida whipped over a low cross through the six-yard box, which Galatasaray striker Milan Baros just failed to connect with.

Ronaldo was played into the Czech box, holding off Michal Kadlec, and drilled the ball goalwards with Chelsea keeper Petr Cech making a smart save.

However, English referee Howard Webb had blown for a foul by the Portugal forward, who could not believe the decision against him.

The game was starting to open up as Czech full-back Theodor Gebre Selassie cut in from the right and crossed, with Pepe again alert to clear the danger.

At the other end, Ronaldo – who netted a brace against the Dutch – went close with an overhead kick at the far post.

The former Manchester United forward was then just off target again with an ambitious long-range free-kick.

Nani claimed for a penalty after going down in the box under close attention from Limbersky, but the referee was unconvinced.

Portugal continued to press and Ronaldo was within inches of a spectacular opening goal when he collected a high ball into the box on his chest, swivelled around marker Kadlec and crashed the ball past Cech – only for it to strike the base of the near post.

On 50 minutes, Ronaldo was denied by the woodwork again as this time his 30-yard free-kick clipped the outside of the far post with Cech beaten.

The Czechs produced a counter-attack when Vaclav Pilar charged down the left and into the penalty area, only to produce a poor final pass, which was hacked clear.

Ronaldo finally broke the deadlock on 79 minutes, when he sent a diving header past Cech from Moutinho’s right-wing cross.

Portugal continued to pour forward, with Cech beating away an angled 25-yard effort from full-back Joao Pereira.

Portugal saw out four minutes of stoppage time to secure their place in the semi-finals, to face Spain or France.

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