FOOTBALL NEWS

27/06/2012 22:27, Report by Adam Bostock
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Nani bows out on pens

The biggest international match of Nani's career failed to spark - and ultimately ended in disappointment as Portugal lost the Euro 2012 semi-final to Spain.

Nani suffered precisely the same fate as his Manchester United team-mates in England's quarter-final defeat, drawing 0-0 over 120 minutes but then losing 4-2 on penalties. Like Wayne Rooney, the Reds winger scored in the shoot-out but then watched helplessly as a colleague - in this case Bruno Alves - hit the crossbar with a costly miss.

Portugal and Spain had mustered only one shot in target between them in normal time. The latter fielded just one forward - Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo - and then replaced him with a midfielder in Cesc Fabregas, while Paulo Bento had his second-choice striker Hugo Almeida leading the Portuguese line. Hence the defences were on top in this Iberian derby, with Nani edged out in his duel on Portugal's right flank with Spain left-back Jordi Alba.

Extra-time was always a distinct possibility but had Cristiano Ronaldo executed the game's second accurate attempt on goal in the 90th minute, then the additional half-hour would not have been required. The Portuguese surged forward on the counter-attack after defending a free-kick, breaking with four men against three Spanish defenders. Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles at the spearhead found Ronaldo in space to his left, only for the former United star to sky his shot and let Spain off the hook.

The champions almost punished Portugal in the first period of extra-time but when their substitute Pedro combined with Alba on the left to tee up Andres Iniesta inside the area, Rui Patricio pulled off an excellent save. The stop spoke volumes for the Portuguese keeper's concentration levels on a night when he was surprisingly under-employed. Patricio also denied Jesus Navas to ensure Spain's sudden improvement failed to break the deadlock.

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