Electric Ronaldo sends Netherlands home

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Portugal booked their Euro 2012 quarter-final place with a 2-1 win against Netherlands in Kharkiv.


The Portuguese captain defied criticism of his performances with a magnificent display to secure second place in Group B and a last-eight meeting with the Czech Republic.

The Dutch suffered a third defeat in as many games, wilting after Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring with a superb goal on 11 minutes.

Thereafter Portugal - in particular Ronaldo - ran riot. The Real Madrid forward scored on 28 and 74 minutes, and struck the woodwork twice for good measure.

He has now scored in three European Championship finals, and made amends for his wayward shooting against Germany and Denmark.

Knowing his team had to win by at least two goals to have any chance of going through, Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk bowed to public pressure by bringing Van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar into an attacking formation,

He sacrificed skipper Mark van Bommel and Ibrahim Afellay, while Ron Vlaar replaced Johnny Heitinga at the back.

The change appeared to pay immediate dividends, as the Dutch tore into their opponents from the off, with Robin van Persie operating as a deep striker behind Huntelaar, and Van der Vaart even deeper in central midfield.

And it was Van der Vaart, wearing the captain's armband, who broke the deadlock with a peach of a strike, taking Arjen Robben's lay-off and curling a 20-yard shot into the left corner of Rui Patricio's net.

That goal sent Denmark through on the 'as it stands' table, though Portugal were soon back in second place when Germany took the lead against the Danes in Lviv. The table changed again when Denmark equalised, but back in Kharkiv Portugal had started to dominate.

The flipside of Van Marwijk's attacking formation was that his side looked extremely porous in midfield, and Portugal flowed through them with ease.

Ronaldo hit the outside of the post, before Helder Postiga missed a one-on-one following a terrible Gregory van der Wiel backpass.

Ronaldo went close again with a header Maarten Stekelenburg clawed to safety, but he was not to be denied.

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On 28 minutes sloppy play from the Jetro Willems gave Joao Pereira possession, and the Portugal right-back slid Ronaldo through with one of the passes of the tournament - and the Portugal captain found the net at last.

Holland, clad all in black, could not stem the red tide. Nani struck a low shot just wide, before Ronaldo stung Stekelenburg's hands with a long-range effort.

The second half brought a slight tactical shift from the Dutch, with Wesley Sneijder taking a more central role, but Van Marwijk did nothing to address the lack of bite in midfield.

The otherwise wasteful Postiga had the ball in the net on the hour mark when he turned in a Ronaldo shot, but his effort was rightly ruled out for offside.

Portugal continued to dominate, and were particularly potent on the counter-attack. On 66 minutes Ronaldo teed up his club-mate Fabio Coentrao, who brought a fine diving save from Stekelenburg.

Van Marwijk responded by removing a defender and bringing on Ibrahim Afellay - succeeding only in making his side more vulnerable on the break.

Shortly afterwards, Ronaldo teed up Nani, whose close range shot brought a brilliant save from Stekelenburg - but a more precise finish would have given the goalkeeper no chance.

There was no reprieve two minutes later, when roles were reversed and Nani supplied Ronaldo, who cut inside Van der Wiel and picked out the bottom-left corner.

That goal sparked an on-pitch row between Van der Vaart and Robben as the fractious Dutch saw their tournament definitively ended.

Van der Vaart at least hit the post with a curling right-foot effort, before the out-of-sorts Van Persie missed a clear opportunity.

There was still time for Ronaldo to crack a left-foot shot against the base of the right upright at the end of a thoroughly impressive performance.

Three games, three defeats. So ends a desperate tournament for the Netherlands.

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