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Spain enters Euro final, edging Portugal 4-2 on penalties

(Xinhua)

09:37, June 28, 2012

DONETSK, Ukraine, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Reigning champions Spain roared into the Euro 2012 final here on Wednesday, beating Portugal 4-2 on penalties after 0-0 for both regular and extra time.

Spain's midmielder Xabi Alonso shot wide in the first attempt, but keeper Iker Casillas blocked Portugal's midfielder Joao Moutinho's shot to keep the score as 0-0. Then Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas scored for Spain, but Portugal's defender Bruno Alves sent the ball to the bar.

Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had missed a good chance to put Portugal through in the last minute of normal time while Portugal keeper Rui Patricio made superb saves to deny Jesus Navas and Iniesta in extra time.

Spain will take on the winner of the Germany-Italy semifinal in the final. Spain coach Del Bosque said, "In any case, final is a great match. We don't care about the opponents."

Bosque said after the match, "Portugal played a great tournament but we were lucky."

"We need speed on the pitch, so I made several substitutions which is vital," he added.

The Spaniards had started better, and ought to have gone ahead from their first chance in the ninth minute when Manuel Negredo pulled the ball back for Alvaro Arbeloa to fire over the bar from the edge of the box.

Iniesta blazed over from long range a minute later, but Portugal threatened in the 13th minute through Ronaldo, who beat Pique down the left before crossing towards Nani, with Casillas jumping to make a crucial interception.

Hugo Almeida wasted a good chance in the 58th minute when he fired ambitiously over the Spanish bar instead of picking out Ronaldo or Nani, who were unmarked to his left and right respectively. Belatedly, Spain started to show signs of stirring, Xabi drilling a shot straight at Patricio from long range, but despite beginning to edge possession, chances continued to be few and far between.

In the last minute of normal time, a Portuguese counter-attack saw Raul Meireles feed Cristiano Ronaldo who fired over the bar from the left side of the box.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento said after the game, "We played better in the regular time but failed to score a goal. In the extra time, we were less efficient and Spain recovered to control the ball."

The Portuguese were plainly tiring in the extra time, and Spain had an even better chance in the 104th minute, when Jordi Alba's cross found Iniesta in front of goal but Patricio managed to flap his shot wide from six yards. Sergio Ramos slammed a long-range free-kick just over the bar before the end of the first period of extra time, and Ramos was soon in critical action at the other end when cutting out a Fabio Coentrao ball meant for Ronaldo.

Bento said: "Spain deserve to be in the final. I don't want to talk about luck. But we really did not have luck today."

"But we have played a great tournament and we can leave now with our heads high," he noted.

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