Lyon | Cristiano Ronaldo became the Dragon-slayer as his record-equalling ninth European Championship goal helped power Portugal past Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bales’ Wales and into the Euro 2016 final.
Ronaldo brilliantly rose above the Wales’ defence to score his country’s first goal in the 2-0 win in front of 50,000 fans in the Stade de Lyon on Wednesday.
Nani deflected the Portugal hero’s shot for the decisive second goal that saw their country into Sunday’s final against tournament hosts France or world champions Germany.
Ronaldo and Bale had not spoken in the tournament before Wednesday’s match. With victory sealed, Ronaldo embraced his club teammate at the end.
The team did a marvellous job to reach the final. I hope on Sunday you’ll see me crying with joy, said Ronaldo, who as a 19-year-old wept on the pitch after Portugal lost 1-0 to Greece as hosts of the Euro 2004 final.
I have always dreamed of winning for Portugal — I hope it is our time now. I am very confident. I deserve it, Portugal deserves it, all the Portugese people deserve it.
Bale paid tribute to the three-time world player of the year with whom he has not always had an easy relationship in Madrid.
Bale had the better of the first half showing off his pace and power to threaten the Portuguese goal.
But five minutes into the second period, Raphael Guerreiro curled a cross to the back post and Ronaldo leapt above James Chester to head past Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
Three minutes later, Nani, who has just completed a move from Turkey’s Fenerbahce to Valencia in Spain, instinctively pushed out his leg to deflect a Ronaldo shot past Hennessy.
Tens of thousands of fans celebrated in Lisbon’s Praca do Comercio. Heads dropped in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
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