Marseille | Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal battled their way to a place in the European Championship last
four on Thursday winning a penalty shootout 5-3 against Poland in a tense quarter-final.
Teenage sensation Renato Sanches, who scored Portugal’s goal and smashed home one of the penalties, said it was a “wonderful moment for the team and for me for scoring”.
Portugal have reached the last four without winning a single game within 90 minutes.
“People criticise us but we don’t care, because we are in the semis,” Sanches said, after Portugal reached the semi-finals for the fourth time in the last five European Championships.
Poland had started strongly, with Robert Lewandowski scoring his first goal of Euro 2016 inside two minutes in the Marseille clash before 18-year-old Sanches, his new teammate at Bayern Munich, equalised with a powerfully driven shot. The game then went through extra-time deadlocked at 1-1.
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Ricardo Quaresma were Portugal’s heroes in the shootout. Ronaldo was among the players fist-pumping when Patricio dived to his left to save Jakub Blaszczykowski’s tame fourth shot for the Poles, who had reached the quarter-finals for the first time.
Quaresma was next up for Portugal and made no mistake firing high into the net to beat Poland goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
“It hurts and it will hurt for a long time,” Lewandowski said as Ronaldo celebrated taking the latest step toward winning a first major international trophy with Portugal.
Poland made a blistering start to the game. After barely 100 seconds, Kamil Grosicki hurried past Southampton right-back Cedric Soares to deliver a great cross that Lewandowski drove past a flailing Rui Patricio at his near post.
The Polish striker’s first goal of the competition, after hitting a record 13 in qualifying, stunned Portugal.
The early goal gave Poland momentum, and a defiant but borderline interception by Grzegorz Krychowiak on Sanches set Arkadiusz Milik up for a 25-yard drive that sailed wide on the quarter
Ronaldo hit the defensive wall with one free kick and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski had no trouble with Ronaldo’s 18-yard drive from a Nani cross.
German referee Felix Brych waved away Ronaldo’s claims for a penalty on 31 minutes despite replays suggesting the Real Madrid star was bundled over by centre-back Michal Pazdan as he went to meet a cross.