An early goal meant that the first quarterfinal of Euro 2016 would be an interesting one, even if goals proved to be hard to come by as Portugal and Poland put on a decent attacking show, without the end product. Just two goals came in 120 minutes of play in Marseille, the first via Robert Lewandowski for Poland and the second courtesy the left boot of the teenager Renato Sanches, before the dreaded penalty shootout
Lewandowski opened the scoring as early as the second minute, with Sanches equalising just past the half hour. Both teams, to their credit, went in search of the winner, but the third goal of the match would not come, despite another Ronaldo "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" rendition.
That meant Poland went into a penalty shootout for the second straight game â€“ their previous match, against Switzerland, also ended 1-1 after 120 minutes â€“ but this time, there would be no happy ending for them, as Ricardo Quaresma struck the winning penalty to give Portugal a 5-3 win in the shootout.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who usually takes the final penalty, stepped up first for Portugal, and fired the ball into the corner to give his country a 1-0 lead. The other superstar of the game â€“ Lewandowski â€“ did the same for Poland to make it 1-1.
The 18-year-old Renato Sanches showed maturity beyond his years again to give Portugal a 2-1 lead, which was brought back to 2-2 by Arkadiusz Milik. The penalties kept going in, as Joao Moutinho, Kamil Glik and Nani all scored, making it 4-3 to Portugal.
Then came the turning point, a Jakub Blaszczykowski penalty to his right, a brilliant dive by Rui Patricio to his left and a brilliant stop which gave Ricardo Quaresma, scorer of the winning goal to send Portugal into the quarterfinals, an opportunity to strike the winner again. Quaresma did it too, blasting the penalty into the top of the net to take his team to the semifinals of Euro 2016.
This was nothing like the last game Portugal played, with the early Lewandowski goal making all the difference, and forcing the Portuguese to come out and play, which in turn opened up space for Poland, so dangerous on the counterattack, to exploit.
The opening goal was a thing of beauty as far as Poland were concerned. A crossfield ball from the Poland right was misjudged by Portugal right-back Cedric, putting Kamil Grosicki in space. The winger, Poland's most consistent attacking player in this tournament, picked out his captain perfectly, with Lewandowski expertly sidefooting the ball into the corner of the net, past Rui Patricio's right.
Portugal seem to play better when they are a goal down, as the Hungary game showed, and there was plenty of intent in their attacks, with Ronaldo and Nani far from the isolated figures they were for large parts of the match against Croatia.
Ronaldo might have had a couple of goals too, with the first chance being a tame shot from distance, when he really should have hit it better and the second one being a strong penalty appeal, when Michal Pazdan seemed to barge into the Real Madrid man inside the box.
At the other end, though, Poland nearly doubled their lead with a Barcelona-esque passing sequence, with the ball pinging in and around the box, before falling for Grosicki inside the box on the left. The midfielder went for the cutback rather than going for goal and the chance petered out as a result.
Portugal would get their equaliser, and a deserved one too, in the 33rd minute, courtesy their new superstar-in-the-making. Renato Sanches fired the ball into Nani at the edge of the box, with the forward playing a nice backheel back to his teammate, who had no hesitation in taking the shot, which thumped into the net via a deflection of Grzegorz Krychowiak, who was, otherwise, outstanding in the middle of the park.
There was no holding back, no "ok, now that it is 1-1, let's play some safety football" from either team, despite the match going back on level terms, with the second half played at a good pace as both sides went in search of the winner -- understandable, considering the two sides played an extra 30 minutes in their respective last 16 matches.
Portugal looked the more threatening in front of goal, despite Poland enjoying a wee bit more of the possession, with Ronaldo, again, given a couple of really good chances, by his high standards, to find the winner.
The first was from an angle, after being put through by Nani, but Ronaldo, uncharacteristically fired wide, while attempting to catch out Lukasz Fabianski at the near post, with the second being a complete air shot from seven yards out, off a perfect pick out from Nani again.
Lewandowski was left a little frustrated at the other end, as he failed to get into the game, with Arkadiusz Milik's influence, quite good in the first 45, also diminishing.
Both teams made changes as the match ticked towards the 90-minute mark, with Fernando Santos bringing on Ricardo Quaresma, the man who scored the extra time winner against Croatia, for Joao Mario, while the exciting youngster Bartosz Kapustka came on for Grosicki.
Ronaldo would be the one to miss another opportunity, though, similar to the one he missed earlier in the tournament, failing to make contact with the ball coming over his shoulder off a wonderful, lobbed pass from substitute Joao Moutinho. That missed chance suggested this match was destined to go to extra time, and so it proved.
There was, yet again, intent shown in the extra half hour, but, unfortunately, just not enough to go all out and get that winning goal.
The penalty shootout, as a result, came, and the penalty shootout went Portugal's way.