Cesc Fabregas struck the
winning spot-kick as holders Spain beat Portugal 4-2 on
penalties after their Euro 2012 semi-final ended goalless after
extra time on Wednesday.
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas saved Joao Moutinho's opening
penalty then Bruno Alves hit the bar to eventually open the door
for substitute Fabregas, who scored via the post.
World champions Spain have reached a third consecutive major
tournament final, which will be played in Kiev on Sunday,
equalling the record set by West Germany in the early 1970s.
It was the second successive game to go to penalties after
Italy beat England in the last eight, with the Italians playing
Germany in Warsaw on Thursday in the second semi-final.
"I had a funny feeling about the penalties and I was
thinking about them this afternoon," said Fabregas.
"They told me intially to take the second one but I said no
give me the fifth as I had this premonition.
"When I stepped up to take the penalty I said to the ball
that we had to make history and it shouldn't let me down.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento added: "If I had to choose a way
of losing I wouldn't choose this way... but Spain are a great
team and we can leave with our heads high."
Despite the derby nature of the game between the two Iberian
neighbours which featured seven Real Madrid club mates, it
started in a largely sporting, open spirit.
However it began to get increasingly fractious as it went on
with Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir booking nine players, most for
clumsy or late challenges with little malicious intent.
But the attacking intentions of both sides began to fade
after halftime, with the only real second-half opportunity
coming from a Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick that dipped just over
The atmosphere in the stadium also became subdued with
players' shouts easily audible because the crowd were making so
little noise with just one chance coming in the opening period
of extra time when Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio made a
superb save from a close-range effort from Andres Iniesta.
With so much at stake, and with both teams knowing so much
about each other, they might have been expected to take a more
cautious approach right from the start, but the opening 30
minutes gave little clue of the flat fare that was to follow.
Portugal pressed hard when the world champions had
possession and the Spaniards came forward with real purpose in
contrast to the more circumspect approach they were criticised
for against France in the quarter-final.
Portugal did not sit back and let Spain dominate them in
those opening exchanges however.
Ronaldo's expected forays forward and some powerful running
from Fabio Coentrao took the game to Spain and their Real club
team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa was fully employed keeping them both at bay.
Spain threatened twice in the opening half hour with Arbeloa
and Iniesta going close while at the other end Ronaldo fired a
shot just past the post.
Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque started with the physically
powerful Alvaro Negredo in attack rather than Cesc Fabregas but
the "false number nine" came on early in the second half with
Negredo having been well-marshalled by Pepe and Bruno Alves.
The player who showed by far the more physical side to his
opponents was Portugal striker Hugo Almeida, who had one
thunderous shot at goal in the second half and was a constant
worry for the Spanish defence.
Iniesta forced Patricio into his first serious save just
before half-time in extra time when Spain finally injected some
pace and took control but they could not find a way through the
Portugal defence and the match went to penalties.
Spain's Xabi Alonso took the first spot-kick which was saved
by Patricio but then Moutinho missed for Portugal and after the
next five penalties were converted Bruno Alves struck the
woodwork leaving Fabregas to take the plaudits.
Fabregas had also scored the decisive spot-kick in Spain's
quarter-final win over Italy at Euro 2008 but this was sweeter
against neighbouring Portugal, for whom Ronaldo did not get the
chance to step up to take a penalty in the shootout.
"That life has given me another chance like this is really
incredible," said Fabregas. "It doesn't matter who we play in
the final but if I had to pick one for the sweepstake I would
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