Portugal beat Netherlands to reach final

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/F/Football.jpg' class='caption'> Portugal has advanced to the final of a major soccer championship for the first time by beating the Netherlands 2-1 in the semifinal of Euro 2004.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
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Portugal has advanced to the final of a major soccer championship for the first time by beating the Netherlands 2-1 in the semifinal of Euro 2004. Cristiano Ronaldo headed home a corner in the 26th minute and Nuno Maniche drove a stunning 22-meter strike into the top left corner of Edwin van der Sar's goal in the 58th to put the host two goals ahead before a Jorge Andrade own goal gave the Dutch some hope. The Portuguese, who lost 2-1 to underdog Greece in the opening game, finally made it to a championship game after semifinal exits at the 1966 World Cup and the 1984 and 2000 Euros. ‘Deserved to win’ "My team was very competitive, we deserved to win," Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "The fans were fantastic." The Dutch, who won the Euro title in 1988, lost in the semifinal for the second time in a row, having been beaten by Italy four years ago in Rotterdam. Before 46,679 fans at Sporting Lisbon's Jose Alvalade Stadium, the Portuguese regularly opened up a Dutch defence missing injured veteran Frank de Boer and could have gone into half time two or three goals ahead. In the ninth minute Luis Figo, who was the main source of the best Portuguese moves and was named man of the match, broke down the right and sent over a low cross but Ronaldo, sliding in just three meters from the goal-line, was unable to get his foot to the ball. But the Portuguese were soon ahead, this time from a corner. Ronaldo won it on the left, Deco delivered the cross and the teenager was perfectly positioned and unmarked to head home from close range. Ronaldo pulled off his shirt in celebration and was shown a yellow card by Swedish referee Anders Frisk. The Dutch had a chance to level within a minute but the unmarked Marc Overmars, recalled for his first start in Euro 2004, fired over the bar with an angled 10-metre strike after Edgar Davids' left wing cross had been flicked on. Missed chance The Portuguese should have gone two ahead when Deco sent Maniche clear down the right and his low cross found Pauleta in front of the goal. The Paris Saint Germain striker, recalled instead of the injured Nuno Gomes, had left his marker and got in a firm close range shot but it was too close to Van der Sar who pushed it round the post. Five minutes before halftime, Figo again went close when he cut in from the right and fired a leftfooted shot that beat Van der Sar but hit the far post. But a second Portuguese goal came within three minutes when Jaap Stam's headed clearance at the near post gave the home team a corner. Maniche collected the short corner and unleashed an angled 22-meter shot that flew past Van der Sar and went in off the far post. The Portuguese fans were still celebrating when their team conceded an own goal in the 63rd minute. There seemed no real danger when Giovanni Van Bronckhorst sent a cross to the box from the left, but Andrade stretched his leg trying to clear it and the ball bounced off his leg and past goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira. (AP)

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