Portugal battled their way into the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 Saturday with a late 1-0 defeat of Croatia, on an extra-time goal from supersub Ricardo Quaresma.
Croatia were the slightly better team in a tense, colourless encounter, but were hit with a sucker-punch just three minutes from the end of extra-time when Quaresma scored on the break after goalkeeper Danijel Subasic had parried a shot from Cristiano Ronaldo.
"This is a great moment for me and for Portugal," a delighted Quaresma said.
"It was not a brilliant game, I will admit that. But we were patient and resilient - and we were given our reward at the end.
"Now we just have to focus on the quarter-finals, which will also be difficult for us, I am sure of that."
In the quarters on Thursday, Portugal will face Poland, who earlier beat Switzerland 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
It was the first game at the Euros finals since 1980 that did not feature a single shot on target in the first 90 minutes, as both teams took a cautious safety-first approach.
Croatia belatedly came out of their defensive shell in extra-time, with chances falling to Domagoj Vida and Ivan Perisic.
However, just three minutes away from a penalty shootout, with Croatia laying siege to the Portugal goal - and with Perisic heading against the post - the Iberians broke quickly and took advantage of the Croatians' weariness to create their only clear chance of the entire match.
The ball fell kindly to Ronaldo at the far post. He shot badly - to crown another dismal display from him - but Subasic could only parry the ball out to the fortunate Quaresma, who headed home from close range.
Luckless Croatia then died with their boots on, again going breathlessly close to beating Portugal keeper Rui Patricio.
"We had luck going against us tonight. We certainly did not deserve to lose," Croatia coach Ante Cacic said.
"Just seconds after hitting their post, they went up the other end and sneaked a goal. How much crueller can football be than that?
"We did not deserve this defeat at all. Any neutral watching the game can see that is true."
Friday, July 1, 2016 - 00:53
Monday, July 11, 2016 - 01:58