Ronaldo show shatters Czechs

Geneva, June 11:

Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal and set up another on Wednesday to help Portugal to a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic at the European Championship.

Ronaldo’s 63rd-minute goal, his first for the national team since October, put his team 2-1 up before substitute Ricardo Quaresma rounded off the scoring in injury time. Portugal moved up to six points and are in a good position to advance from Group A and reach the quarter-finals. The Czechs stayed on three points.

Deco had opened the scoring for Portugal in the eighth, finding the net from close range after an attempted clearance by goalkeeper Petr Cech. Libor Sionko equalised in the 17th before Ronaldo scored from the edge of the area and Quaresma tapped in from close range.

Ronaldo was also instrumental to Portugal’s first goal when he tried to exchange passes with Nuno Gomes. Cech intercepted the return with his leg and redirected it into Deco’s path, leaving the midfielder to force the ball into the net from close range, via a deflection off defender Marek Jankulovski.

It was Portugal’s fourth win in 10 matches against the Czechs, with three losses and three draws. Led by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, Portugal are trying to reach their second consecutive final at the European Championship. They were runner-up to Greece at Euro 2004 at home. They had another successful campaign at the World Cup in Germany two years later, losing to France in the semi-finals.

The Czechs, who reached the 2004 semi-finals but also lost to Greece, were hoping for a repeat of Euro 1996 when they beat Portugal 1-0 in the quarter-finals. They eventually lost the final 2-1 to Germany in what was their best showing since winning the 1976 title as part of the Czechoslovakia.

Both teams were coming off wins in their opening matches. Portugal had a 2-0 victory over Turkey, while the Czech Republic edged co-hosts Switzerland 1-0.

Portugal controlled possession but had trouble penetrating the Czechs, who had the first attempt on goal in the third, when Sionko’s shot from just outside the area was deflected by defender Pepe. Ronaldo has his first attempt moments later, but his right-footed effort was also blocked.

Soon after Deco’s goal, Jankulovski came close to scoring with a shot wide. Portugal midfielder Armando Petit also had a chance in the 14th, but Cech stopped his long-range attempt.

Sionko equalised with a header from in front of goal, beating Portugal midfielder Armando Petit to the ball off a corner by midfielder Jaroslav Plasil. Sionko missed an open net in the 29th when Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo struggled to deal with a corner, and Czech striker Milan Baros — replacing Jan Koller — threatened in the 36th with a run up the right side. He beat defender Ricardo Carvalho before right back Jose Bosingwa cleared the cross.

Ronaldo had a chance in the 42nd with a powerful left-footed shot that Cech stopped with a diving save and the star winger’s last chance of the half came from an injury-time free kick that Cech held.

The Czechs had the first opportunity of the second half when Sionko’s cross travelled in front of the goal, but there was nobody to deflect it into the net. Those chances spurred Scolari to order his team forward in the second half.

Nuno Gomes came close in the 53rd, overpowering Czech captain Tomas Ujfalusi just inside the area before shooting weakly. He had another chance three minutes later when he beat defender David Rozehnal before his right-footed shot was blocked. Portugal midfielder Simao Sabrosa missed two chances and Ujfalusi put a header just wide before Ronaldo scored at the packed 30,000-seat Stade de Geneve. Deco played a pass across the edge of the area, taking out three defenders, and Ronaldo hit a low shot past Cech.