Euro 2008 – Ronaldo conducts rampant Portugal
Under glorious sunshine, Portugal started where they left off against Turkey. With Deco and Ronaldo fizzing in midfield, Phil Scolari’s team blasted out of the blocks in exuberant fashion and went ahead in under 10 minutes.
That man Ronaldo was inevitably involved; exchanging passes on the edge of the box with Nuno Gomes to scythe open the Czech defence. Petr Cech was alert to deny the Manchester United midfielder with his legs, but Deco poked home to put the Portuguese ahead.
The Czechs are made of stern stuff, however, and were not about to capitulate. Milan Baros, who was preferred to Jan Koller up front, worked tirelessly and fully justified his inclusion, while Libor Sionko and Jan Polak began to assert themselves in the all-important midfield battle.
Having gone behind, Karel Bruckner’s team responded with a spell of dominance which soon brought them level.
The highly influential Sionko broke on the right and earned his side a corner, which Jaroslav Plasil swung in from the left. Sionko found himself unmarked and stooped to head past Ricardo with some style.
The two sides were impossible to separate for the remainder of the first period, as each defended tightly and probed without great success going forward. Ronaldo tested Cech twice from 30 yards, once from open play and once from a well-struck free-kick, but 1-1 at half-time was a fair reflection.
The second half began with the Czechs in control. Three minutes in, Sionko broke down the right but failed to find Baros with his centre. A glorious chance went begging and Portugal were soon back to their scintillating best.
Just shy of the hour mark Portugal went ahead. Deco cut inside from the right and sent a slide-rule pass into Ronaldo, who shot first time into the bottom corner to score his 22nd international goal.
Despite some nervous moments in the Portuguese defence, there would be no reply from the Czechs this time. They continued to press, however, and stayed in contention by denying Portugal a counter-attack hammer blow.
On 83 minutes, Sionko once again found himself unmarked in the box, but Ricardo tipped his powerful header over the bar.
As the Czechs became increasingly desperate, holes began to appear in their defence and with full-time looming Ronaldo found himself clean through in acres of space. The Manchester United midfielder unselfishly squared for Quaresma, who had the straightforward task of the passing the ball into an empty net.