THANK GOODNESS. AFTER close to 48 hours away, football is back on our screens.
And what a return.
It’s only a mouthwatering and crucial quarter-final.
Czech Republic 0 – 1 Portugal
19.26 – Well, hello there.
You’ve joined us in time for the glorious return of wonderful, wonderful football. It’s been a long wait since the closing fixtures of group D – ooh, it must have been as far back as Tuesday – but we’re back in full swing now as we reach the business end of the tournament.
19.32 – Yes folks, it’s the Czech Republic against Portugal a fixture which conjures up memories of this:
YouTube credit: FotbalHokejCZ
19.35 – Wipe that saliva off the floor. I’ve got your team news right here.
Czech Republic: Cech; Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky; Hubshman, Plasil; Jiracek, Darida, Pilar; Baros.
Portugal: Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho; Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo.
19.40 – The anthems are on. The Czechs are all in red which puts Portugal in pure-as-driven-snow white.
19.45 – KICK OFF: ’5,4,3,2….’
Howard Webb is your referee. Peter Collins is the commentator who I’m putting up with so you don’t have to.
He’s telling us that Tomas Rosicky has brought his boots if he’s required later. Commitment.
19.49 – Petr Jiráček is seeing plenty of the ball early on and the Czechs have enjoyed most of the ball after three minutes.
It has come to nothing, however. An early corner on the left was taken short, but fizzled out as Joao Peireira was alive to the danger.
19.53 – It’s been a very nervous start from Portugal. The Czechs are happy to let Pepe and Bruno Alves have time in possession with very little movement from the Portuguese midfield Alves was forced to hoof a long hopeful diagonal.
Nani is hardly the man you want on the end of one of those. Now, if Portugal had Andy Carroll….
19.58 – To resolve a nervous situation, you slow the process down.
That’s what Portugal have done here and they have made their way steadily into the game through some clever interplay between Nani and Fábio Coentrão. Unfortunately, it all ends with a fair weak shot from Joao Moutinho which bounces into the chest of Petr Cech.
20.03 – Some of the players are finding it difficult to cope with the slippery conditions and now Limberský was seen to send much flying when he ventured down the the left corner flag.
The scrambling paid off. Czech Republic won a corner which Ronaldo was at full stretch to clear away. It went over his own bar, an anxious moment for Portuguese fans.
20.05 – 18 Minutes:
Milan Baros was inches away from giving his side the lead. Darida eased past Coentrao on the right and sung in a low cross.
The former Liverpool striker was at full stretch, but could not achieve the vital contact.
Corner to Portugal now at the other end.
20.13 – The first piece of cohesive play from Portugal ends with cristiano Ronaldo with the ball at his feet one on one with Cech. He smashes it, Cech saves.
The duel is ruled null and void by Webb who gives a free against Ronaldo after he got on the end of Meireles’ through-ball and won the physical contest with Tomas Sivok.
Take that, Miguel and Sid.
20.17 – Gabre Selassie has had his first big involvement in the game, a near-post cross which need Pepe at full stretch to toe skywards.
The battle on that win is intriguing, and it’s noticeable that Ronaldo has moved infield away from Werder Bremen’s new fullback.
20.21 – Cristiano Ronaldo has just attempted an audacious overhead kick.
Pepe lobbed a loose ball high towards the six yard line. Ronaldo possibly could have chose to head it, but there was no power on the cross and to angle it goalwards would have been difficult. He missed his bicycle right of the post and followed it up by smashing a trademark 40-yard free kick a metre wide of the left hand post.
Are they what you call, ‘sighters’?
20.25 – 38 minutes: Oh dear, Portugal’s main goal threat has pulled his hamstring and is being stretchered off…
… and in place of Helder Postiga comes Hugo Almeida.
Does that scupper Portugal, or are they used to playing with rubbish strikers?
20.33 – After the stadium tannoy announced two minutes of added time, Ronaldo came very, very close to lighting this game up.
The Madrid striker /winger took a diagonal ball on his chest, spun Kadlec by deftly flicking the ball onto his right foot, but he smahsed it off the outside of the post. Superb skill.
HALF TIME: Crech Republic 0 – 0 Portugal
Two moments of Ronaldo brilliance and two Czech crosses from the right aside, this has been a fairly forgettable 45 minutes of football.
Let’s just put the kettle on, click our heels together and hope for better, eh?
20.49 – Right, the tea’s drank; let’s make this beautiful football happen.
Portugal go straight on the attack and Coentrao crosses onto the head of an unmarked Almeida. The beardy striker can only direct his effort over the bar.
Portugal mean business here.
20.54 – Two bites at free kick cherry and Ronaldo just cannot squeeze a shot inside the post. HIs first free kick was handled in the Czech wall, so from a mere 25 yards he powered a dipping shot towards Cech’s bottom left corner.
The ‘keeper appeared to get a finger tip on it before it bounced off the post.
Ronaldo might cry here if he doesn’t score soon. I might join him.
21.04 – Meanwhile, back in the second half: Portugal continue to hammer at the door.
Nani has made his first meaningful contribution. First, pinging a shot on target which was palmed away by Cech. Then he crossed in, but found Almeida whose header found the net, but was miles offside.
Behind him, Ronaldo was apoplectic. He had made a perfectly good run and was unmarked on the six-yard-line , but Almeida got in the way.
21.08 – Ronnie Whelan says that the Czechs have ‘weathered the storm a bit’. I reckon it’s more of a temporary reprieve and Portugal will eventually force a breakthrough.
Moutinho is the latest to draw a terrific save from Cech.
This is backs to the wall stuff from the Czechs, who are aided by the (apparent) fact that they don’t need to mark Hugo Almeida as he cannot head the ball on target without running acres offside.
21.09 – 66 Minutes: Could that be the break Portugal need?
Ronaldo chased a high ball into the box and Cech punched clear, but only while driving both knees through the ribs of Kadlec. Ouch.
21.15 – Deary me.
This is going all the way to penalties. The Czechs are ultra committed to reactive football here. They are contributing nothing to the game in an attacking sense. It’d remind you of a team not very far from here.
21.18 – Oh, so clese.
That little right hand channel continues to provide some joy for Portugal as Nani gets room to hammer in a shot. Kadlec – he’s up, about and OK now – gets a block to it, but it loops high above Cech and drops a foot the wrong side of the bar.
15 minutes remain…. and 30 after that.
21.21 – GOAL!!!! Czech Republic 0 – 1 Portugal (Ronaldo ’79)
At last we have a breakthrough and who else could it have been.
Moutinho overlapped on the right flank and whipped in a deep cross. He did well to miss out Almeida’s leap this time. As the ball dipped behind the striker Ronaldo was diving in.
The header was powered into the turf and bounced up into the top corner, just out of Cech’s reach.
What can the Czechs do to react?
21.32 – Portugal don’t look like a side who believe Czech repblic can cmoe back into this. After a brief stint a booting long shots in the general direction of goal, they get the ball down and Ronaldo does a little Ronaldinho sidestep around Gabre Selassie before going down under pressure from the fullback.
No penalty, says Howard Webb. Seen them given – usually at Old Trafford, though.
21.33 – The board has gone up to signal five minutes of injury time, but Portugal are already trying to hold it up in the corner.
21.35 – Corner to Czech Republic and Petr Cech is up….
21.37 – FULL TIME The corner is over hit and Peirera races up the right wing. Bizarrely, he elects to neither shoot or pass, but tries to round the first red shirt he can find. He’s dispossessed but the whistle soon comes to send Portugal into the final four.
21.39 – It’s a victory for football, Bill. Only one side was interested in playing ball that second half.
We’ve just heard a stat churned out: Attempts on goal was 20 to 2.
21.41 – Oddly, Dunpho is waxing lyrical about Portugal and even talked in glowing terms about CR7.
“He’s had his critics,” said Dunphy as if butter wouldn’t melt, “but he’s put them in their place tonight.”
What’s he up to?
21.53 – And that’s just about that for our humble liveblog. Darragh and the boys are arguing over what constitutes a great player. Ronaldo is not, is the sum total of their debate.
Ronaldo was undoubtedly the stand-out tonight, he is the cutting edge for this Portuguese team. Credit too must got to the Selecao’s three-man midfield and, in particular, Veloso and Moutinho did a sterling job of ensuring the ball was continually in the attacking half.
Tomorrow we have the battle of the bail-out, Germany v Greece.