Portugal 2 Netherlands 1

Ronaldo and Maniche leave old Netherlands looking leaden-footed

No one slept in Lisbon last night. And probably not in any other corner of the globe where there is a Portuguese enclave. For the first time in two decades the host team have reached the final of the European Championship and if the streets of Lisbon's Barrio Alto were any guide, few would remain ignorant of the news.

No one slept in Lisbon last night. And probably not in any other corner of the globe where there is a Portuguese enclave. For the first time in two decades the host team have reached the final of the European Championship and if the streets of Lisbon's Barrio Alto were any guide, few would remain ignorant of the news.

Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, the Manchester United teenager, and Maniche Ribeiro began the parties but a Jorge Andrade own goal induced panic. However, with the Dutch, those great technicians, ultimately resorting to lumping it "into the mixer", the hosts held on. In the 4 July final they will play either Greece or the Czech Republic, who meet in Porto tonight. For the losers, however, there was only despair.

Failure bit hardest for the veterans, especially those players who had been here before, but were unlikely to reach this stage again. Both these countries had gone out in cruel fashion in the semi-finals four years ago, Portugal to France by an extra-time golden goal, the Dutch to Italy by a penalty shoot-out. Thus while this match delivered redemption for some, for those again on the losing side it brought only further agony.

The Dutch were more familiar with the losing experience. Seven of the starting line-up had played in the team's semi-final Rotterdam defeat in 2000. Several also lost in the 1998 World Cup semi-final. Their presence meant that the Netherlands fielded one of the oldest teams in their history, the surprise inclusion of Marc Overmars for Andy van der Meyde keeping the average age close to 30 despite Wilfred Bouma replacing the injured veteran Frank de Boer.

If this was the final chance for many of the Oranje who came to prominence with Louis van Gaal's Ajax almost a decade ago, the last hurrah for most of Portugal's Golden Generation had gone in the Low Countries.

Reflecting the change in their team under Luiz Felipe Scolari, they started with only two survivors from 2000, Francisco Costinha and Luis Figo. Nuno Gomes, who was banned for his part in the outrageous protests that followed Portugal's elimination in 2000, might have expected to start last night but had been displaced by Pauleta, available after suspension.

The first opening came after 10 minutes when Figo slipped past Giovanni van Bronckhorst on the right and whipped over a cross which Ronaldo just failed to reach.

The Dutch reply was a neat passing move concluding with Phillip Cocu dragging a shot past the far post. With both sides using wingers there was a pleasing width to the game, though both sides were too keen to resort to the long ball. With defenders comfortable in possession there was little pressing high up the pitch, unlike when Portugal played England, but space was at a premium further forward.

The Portuguese were the more offensive team and had the bulk of possession but their best chances, paradoxically, came on the counter-attack. Figo looked like a man 10 years younger, perhaps because many of the Dutch were also 30-somethings. Twice he stretched Cocu down the left, providing chances for Ronaldo, a weak shot which was saved, and Pauleta, whose close-range effort was blocked by Bouma.

Taking his cue from the maestro, Ronaldo then went down the same flank winning a corner from Michael Reiziger. Deco Souza took it and Ronaldo rose to head in. He seemed not to have been marked, quite an oversight. The United winger may look slight but he had headed similar goals in the FA Cup final and in this tournament against Greece. Sadly, he celebrated by whipping off his shirt and Anders Frisk, under orders from the governing bodies, booked him.

Edgar Davids led the Netherlands' response. Two left-wing crosses ended with Overmars volleying narrowly over, then Clarence Seedorf going close at the near post. It was a brief flurry. Portugal, with Deco pulling the strings, remained superior.

Maniche broke on to his chipped pass and crossed for Pauleta to bring a sharp reaction save from Edwin van der Sar. Then Figo chested down another Deco pass, weaved inside Van Bronckhorst and curled a shot against the far post.

In between came a reminder that the Dutch could not be written off as Overmars neatly released Ruud van Nistelrooy to drill the ball home. An offside flag has rarely been so cheered.

The Dutch re-emerged with Roy Makaay on for Overmars and an attacking intent but there was little supply for Van Nistelrooy. The better chances remained Portugal's, with Pauleta blasting the ball at Van der Sar after being allowed to run on to a punt down the middle.

It seemed not to matter as Maniche took a short corner from Ronaldo and whirled a cross-shot over Van der Sar and in. From Recife to Goa, Maputo to the Azores, Portuguese all over the world began to party. But the celebrations were premature.

The Netherlands, having only beaten Latvia and the Faroe Islands in their last seven games, were struggling for confidence. Dick Advocaat went for broke, throwing on Rafael van der Vaart and moving Cocu to centre-half.

Then came a lucky break as Andrade diverted Van Bronckhorst's free-kick over his own goalkeeper. Portugal suddenly looked very nervous.

Maniche might have calmed them after Miguel Monteiro had capped another fine performance with a brilliant run down the right wing but his shot was blocked. Thereafter the home team were hanging on with Ricardo Oliviera, the hero of the shoot-out against England, spoiling his reputation with some shameful time-wasting.

MAN FOR MAN

PORTUGAL

Ricardo: Overflowing with confidence after his penalty shoot-out heroics. Had no chance with the own-goal. Mark 6/10

Miguel: Demonstrated why Sir Bobby Robson would dearly like the funds to take him to Newcastle. Muscularly effective. 7

Jorge Andrade: Unfortunate to have conceded the own goal that changed the complexion of the semi-final. 6

Ricardo Carvalho: Excellent display from an elegant centre-half, oozing solidity and positional common sense. 7

Nuno Valente: Some fine interceptions when needed. One against Van Nistelrooy when the Dutch were in full flight was crucial. 6

Ronaldo: Dick Advocaat ordered him to be tightly marked but defenders were nowhere when he headed home Portugal's first goal. 8

Deco: Tried too hard at times but still had the better of most of his midfield tussles. 5

Costinha: Big Phil gave him the task of marking Wayne Rooney in the quarter-final. Closing down Seedorf proved slightly easier. 5

Maniche: Perhaps Portugal's player of Euro 2004. Scored the goal of the tournament to prove it. 7

Luis Figo: Just when his nation demanded it, Figo produced the display of a master. Superb passing and hugely unlucky to strike the post with a devilish shot. 9

Pauleta: Had two marvellous chances to make the game safe and spurned them both. Will be lucky to keep his place ahead of Nuno Gomes in the final. 4

Substitutes:

Petit (for Ronaldo 68): Brought in to shore up the midfield after Andrade's own goal. 5

Nuno Gomes (for Pauleta 75): Little time to make an impact.

Fernando Couto (for Maniche 87): No time to make an impact.

NETHERLANDS

Edwin van der Sar: Two fine saves from Pauleta and late on from Deco prevented what should have been a Dutch rout. Mark 7/10

Michael Reiziger: Came forward during sporadic attacks from the Dutch but they needed much more. 6

Jaap Stam: Should have stuck to the basics such as organising his defence rather than becoming involved in ponderous attacks. 4

Wilfred Bouma: Perhaps the best of the Dutch defenders but there is a limit to how many times you can put your finger in a crumbling dyke. Strangely replaced by Van der Vaart. 6

Giovanni van Bronckhorst: Had the misfortune to come up against Figo at the height of his powers. A nightmarish performance. 2

Marc Overmars: Actually looked like he cared, which was more than could be said for some, but a lot of the effort counted for nothing. Taken off at half-time in favour of Roy Makaay. 4

Phillip Cocu: Lack of pace ruthlessly exposed in the first half by Ronaldo and Figo. 4

Arjen Robben: He sulked, he pouted, he was useless. More of Roman's roubles badly spent by Peter Kenyon? 2

Clarence Seedorf: Thoroughly anonymous, thoroughly wasteful. 3

Edgar Davids: Made some dangerous attacks down the left which might have produced more. 6

Ruud van Nistelrooy: Generally lacked support, although Real Madrid would have noted he looked good in white. 4

Substitutes:

Roy Makaay (for Overmars, half-time): Made little impact. 5

Rafael van der Vaart (for Bouma, 60): Failed to impose himself in a midfield where the Dutch were unsure of themselves. 4

Pierre van Hooijdonk (for Robben, 82): No time to make an impression.

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