Portugal scored two goals in the space of three minutes to beat Wales and advance to the Euro 2016 final.
Lyon hosted the match which pitted the underdogs Wales against the underachievers Portugal for a place in Sunday’s final. Both sides were missing key players as Pepe sat out the match through suspension as did Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey; a player who has been tipped as one of the best players at the tournament.
The match failed to get out of first gear in the opening 15 minutes as both sides remained far too tentative to create a decent chance.
Portugal had the first meaningful attempt but midfielder Joao Maria dragged his effort wide from inside the area in the 16th minute as both sides failed to assert themselves as the match’s aggressor.
In the match billed as Gareth Bale v Cristiano Ronaldo, it was the Welshman who looked the more likely to steal the Real Madrid honours. It was Bale who threatened to score in the 19th minute after his premeditated corner routine with Joe Ledley.
Ledley laid the ball into the box but on the turn Bale failed to keep his shot low enough to trouble the goalkeeper.
Bale produced the only shot on target for the half in the 23rd minute but his powerful effort was hit directly at goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Ronaldo’s best chance and arguably the best chance of the match came a minute from the break but he failed to get his strong header on target.
The half ended goalless; a cliched semi-final battle as both sides feared attacking with any real intent as Bale and Ronaldo had their side’s best efforts but could not seize their opportunity.
A towering leap from Ronaldo turned the match on its head when his bullet header had Wayne Hennessey clinging at fresh air, Portugal ahead in the 49th minute.
The goal spurred Portugal on and Nani poked home his side’s second in the 53rd minute. It was Ronaldo who provided the assist albeit from a shot that was pulled rather weakly but crucially into the centre of the penalty area.
With his tail up, Ronaldo hit one of his trademark free kicks over the wall but his 62nd minute effort brushed over the bar.
Nani and Joao Mario were denied three minutes later after Nani, who signed for Valencia in Spain, put his laces through an effort which Hennessey could only parry into Mario’s path but his first time rebound effort went narrowly wide.
Southampton centre back Jose Fonte was denied a goal when his header was dealt with by Hennessey from a Joao Maria corner. It was his side’s sixth chance on target, already one more than in the first half with 20 minutes left to play in the contest.
Bayern prodigy Renato Sanches found himself in acres of space after Ronaldo and Nani ran lovely decoy lines but it the 18-year-old lashed his shot high and wide over the Welsh goals. It would be his last involvement in the match as Andre Gomes was introduced with a little of 15 minutes to play.
Bale, anonymous since the half hour mark, attempted an outrageous volley from 30 yards out. Again the shot from Bale was straight at Rui Patricio.
In the 77th minute, Danilo almost made it three after springing clear of the defence but Hennessey did just enough to keep the score at two down.
Bale was then denied a spectacular goal as his swerving effort from 35 yards out was palmed away by Rui Patricio.
As the clock ticked down, Ronaldo failed to completely end the contest as he took an age to get his shot away and ultimately failed to hit the target.
Bale’s horror evening ended with a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Portugal defender Cedric in the 88th minute.
Portugal reaped the reward for their early second half blitz while Ronaldo claimed the honours of the battle between two of Los Blancos’ biggest stars.
Saint Denis now awaits Portugal and the winner of Thursday’s semi-final between hosts France and Germany.