Portugal may still not have won a UEFA EURO 2016 game in 90 minutes, but they held their nerve in the penalty shoot-out to deny Poland and reach the semi-finals.
A night of pain for the Polish fans had looked so much brighter just a minute and 40 seconds into the game, when a high ball caught out Portugal right-back Cédric to allow Kamil Grosicki in behind. The Rennes wide-man rolled across for Lewandowski, who finished instinctively for his first goal of the finals.
Poland understandably redoubled their defensive efforts, and with Cristiano Ronaldo shackled, it was down to one from a new generation of Portuguese talent to level proceedings. Renato Sanches, identified as a key player ahead of the match, showed neat footwork to gain space before rifling left-footed past Łukasz Fabiański via a slight deflection.
Where Lewandowski and strike partner Arkadiusz Milik were lively in the first half, they rarely threatened in the second. Ronaldo, at the other end, was eager but ineffective, twice fluffing his lines in great positions in the box. José Fonte and Pepe both wasted headed opportunities as Portugal sought a winner in normal time but again they were held come full-time, and so an additional 30 minutes ensued.
Portugal had beaten Croatia in extra time in the last 16, and Ronaldo again failed to connect from close range in the opening exchanges. Subsequently it was Poland who threatened more, but there would be no further scoring.
Poland won their last-16 tie against Switzerland in a shoot-out but, after seven perfect penalties, Rui Patricio dived to his left to brilliantly keep out Poland’s fourth kick from Jakub Błaszczykowski. That left Ricardo Quaresma to smash in and seal Portugal’s progress.
Man of the match: Renato Sanches
Having made him his first signing as incoming coach of Bayern München, Carlo Ancelotti hailed Renato Sanches as the best player at UEFA EURO 2016 so far. The former Benfica midfielder made his biggest impact at the tournament yet by becoming the third-youngest EURO scorer ever at 18 years and 317 days, on his first start for his country.
Lewandowski comes to life
Having failed to score in Poland’s first four matches, questions were raised over the striker’s form and energy levels after a long, hard season with Bayern and a toe injury sustained against Switzerland. Adam Nawałka rebuffed those suggestions pre-match, saying Lewandowski had been doing a “great job” for the team. The coach’s faith was repaid as Lewandowski put Poland in front and looked lively alongside Milik, particularly in the first half.
Ronaldo is used to close attention from opposing defenders but grew frustrated at the lack of opportunities from Poland’s rearguard. They were quick to shut down shots from open play and block free-kicks, and when Ronaldo was presented with two glorious opportunities in the second half, he uncharacteristically kicked at thin air. The Real Madrid star showed no such uncertainty in the shoot-out, though, scoring first to set Portugal on their way.