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.
And so the second successive match at Euro 2012 was decided by a penalty shoot-out after two hours of football ended 0-0. Patricio produced more brilliance to save Xavi Alonso's opening penalty for Spain but then Iker Casillas did the same to stop Joao Moutinho giving Portugal the advantage. Andres Iniesta sent Patricio the wrong way to put Spain 1-0 up, then Pepe coolly equalised by tucking the ball low under the dive of Casillas - his Real Madrid team-mate. Ex-United defender Gerard Pique scored the next one, followed by a confident blast from Nani that was similar to Rooney's spot-kick for England on Sunday night. There was briefly confusion before this third penalty for Portugal, with Alves walking forward to take it - apparently at odds with the agreed order - before Nani took over.
Sergio Ramos took a leaf out of Andrea Pirlo's book with his dinked effort to make it 3-2 to Spain, and when Alves then hit the bar, it presented Fabregas with the chance to put his team into the final. He did it but only just as his penalty hit the left-hand post before nestling in the net behind the diving Patricio. Ronaldo had saved himself for Portugal's fifth kick but unfortunately for him, Nani and co, the shoot-out did not go that far.
Spain will now meet Germany or England's conquerors Italy in the final on Sunday while Portugal fly home - with Nani's status as the United player who progressed the furthest at Euro 2012 being of scant personal consolation.