Cristiano Ronaldo scored
two goals and set up another to help Portugal thrash 10-man
Bosnia 6-2 and reach the Euro 2012 finals after a lively play-off
second leg on Tuesday.
Fellow forward Helder Postiga also scored twice and Miguel
Veloso got another for the home side in the last 20 minutes to
wrap up the victory after a 0-0 draw on a swampy pitch in the
first leg in Zenica last Friday had left the tie wide open.
Portugal started strongly and Ronaldo showed his intent in
the fifth minute with a shot that visiting goalkeeper Asmir
Begovic struggled to block.
They were two goals ahead by the half-hour mark thanks to a
trademark Ronaldo long-range free-kick after eight minutes and a
delightful Nani shot from more than 30 metres in the 24th.
"I think people are now used to me scoring from free-kicks
and it's become one of my specialities," said Ronaldo.
The world's most expensive player was dangerous throughout
and had many chances to crown his display with a hat-trick.
The Portuguese went on to dominate the match, their solid
defence led by the imposing Pepe while their flowing midfield
gave little room for the Bosnians to manoeuvre.
The visitors were toothless in attack against a solid
defence for the first 40 minutes but they were given a lifeline
when Fabio Coentrao handled in the area and playmaker Zvjezdan
Misimovic slotted in from the spot to make it 2-1.
Ronaldo sidestepped the keeper to score his second goal
after 53 minutes and although the Bosnians had Senad Lulic sent
off a minute later, Emir Spahic's 65th minute goal gave them
brief hope before Postiga and Veloso struck.
The Bosnians, also beaten by Portugal in a play-off for the
2010 World Cup, will be disappointed to miss out on qualifying
for their first major finals but their key players, like striker
Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic, failed to raise their game.
"Congratulations to Portugal, they played faster and better,
and I want to wish them good luck in the Euros," said Bosnia
coach Safet Susic.
Portugal's qualification follows a remarkable revival under
coach Paulo Bento who took over after their dismal start to the
campaign and guided them to five straight wins before defeat in
the final group match with Denmark left them in the play-offs.
Appointed last year to replace Carlos Queiroz, who was
sacked for insulting anti-doping agents, Bento was under
immediate pressure after Portugal had taken just one point from
two qualifiers but he bonded with the squad very quickly.
"Qualification was always the objective, but in a difficult
context after the first two games as we had no room for error,"
said Bento, whose knowledge of the players and recent experience
as a Portugal international helped to revive their fortunes.
"What leaves me most proud and pleased is that we did so
with a strong team spirit," he added.
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