Last-gasp Spain end Portugal dream
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Spain 1-0 Portugal
Portugal goalkeeper Bárbara Santos's brilliant resolve was ended three minutes from time as substitute Raquel Pinel took Spain through to the final.
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Substitute Raquel Pinel struck three minutes from time as Spain finally found a way through Portugal's stout defence to reach the 2012 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final.
A tense encounter in the sapping heat of Antalya looked to be heading for extra time when Amanda Sampedro and Alexia Putellas drew on their last drops of energy in devastating fashion, leaving Pinel with a simple tap-in. It ended the impressive resolve of their Iberian rivals and particularly goalkeeper Bárbara Santos, who had brilliantly kept her side in it amid mounting pressure. Spain, though, broke through in the end.
Geographic neighbours, these sides are poles apart in terms of experience at this level – this final tournament is Portugal's first, Spain's eighth – but there was little to choose between them in a competitive first half. La Rojita, as anticipated, made much of the running, first switching the ball from one flank to the other, then moving the players themselves as they sought a way through a well-organised defensive wall.
The ploy almost brought reward on 18 minutes when right-winger Sampedro popped up on the left and a blocked clearance ran on favourably for her. She advanced before firing in a low shot that evaded Santos but not the near post. For all Spain's possession, the goalkeeper would not make a save in anger until ten minutes before the interval, turning away a Nagore Calderón shot more testing for power than accuracy.
Portugal's attacking endeavours were more direct but so nearly conjured an unlikely breakthrough on half-time, when a hopeful long-range effort from the diligent Mélissa Gomes almost squirmed from Dolores Gallardo's grasp. Spain had been warned. They appeared to heed it too, beginning the second half full of urgency but Santos, Portugal's last line of defence, held firm with notable saves from Virginia Torrecilla (thrice) and Putellas (twice).
The intensity waned with Spain's energy levels and Portugal pushed on; but for Ivana Andrés's desperate block 11 minutes from time to keep out Mónica Mendes following a corner they may even have pinched victory. That was destined for Spain as not even Santos could do anything when Putellas squared for Pinel to side-foot in. Sunday's opponents Sweden are unlikely to be any easier.