Portugal through, but at a price

In an extraordinary 97 minutes of football, Portugal have defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in the second round match in Nuremberg, with the match ending 9-on-9 with four players being sent from the field, two from each team.

    Maniche's goal was enough in an amazing match

    Midfielder Maniche Ribeiro opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with his goal being enough to see Portugal through to a quarter final meeting with England, but the big talking points will be the amount of yellow cards handed out and the manner in which the match degenerated.

    In what was a World Cup record for the number of cautions in a match, Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handed out 16 yellow cards, eight of which resulted in four red cards.

    The match turned ugly when Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho went down injured, and with his team clearly in possession referee Ivanov stopped the game for the Chelsea player to receive treatment.

    Upon the restart, the Portuguese players and everyone watching expected the Dutch to return the ball to their opponents, as is the unwritten rule in football sportsmanship.

    One in, all in: Portugal and the
    Netherlands come to blows

    However, Dutch substitute John Heitinga took off towards goal on an attacking run, only for a disgruntled Deco to bring the Ajax midfielder down with a cynical challenge from behind.

    Deco received a yellow card, as did the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder and substitute Rafael van der Vaart in the ensuing melee which saw players from both sides come to blows.

    Five minutes later, Barcelona midfielder Deco received his second yellow from Valentin, this time for delaying play, and he became the third player from the match to hit the showers early.

    Early trouble

    In first half stoppage time, Portugal’s defensive midfielder Costinha received his second yellow card after a bizarre deliberate hand ball and was sent off just before the break, while Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz received his second yellow card in the 63rd minute for an apparent elbow to the face of Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo, and was promptly marched by Russian referee Valentin Ivanov.

    With so many players on cautions, it was only a matter of time before numbers were on par once again, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst was the man to even things up when he too got a second yellow deep into stoppage time.

    Mark van Bommel (l) and Luis Figo
    (r) go head to head

    The fall out form all of this is that Portuguese midfielders Costinha and Deco will be suspended for the quarter final against England next Saturday, while captain Luis Figo may also face suspension due to a head-butt on Mark van Bommel which was not picked up by the referee but will be reviewed by the FIFA disciplinary committee.

    Star playmaker Cristiano Ronaldo is also in doubt due to a thigh injury suffered after the challenge that led to Boulahrouz’s first yellow card.

    Chelsea midfielder Maniche opened the scoring for Portugal in the 23rd minute after Deco crossed the ball from the right finding Pauleta who knocked the ball into the path of his midfield team mate.

    The Chelsea player still had work to do, but danced around defender Andre Ooijer with ease, and then slotted his shot past Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar.

    In the 49th minute Phillip Cocu had a shot from just six yards which crashed off the crossbar with keeper Ricardo beaten, after the ball had fallen to the feet of the PSV Eindhoven midfielder after it ricocheted off defender Nuno Valente after an Arjen Robben cross.

    Dutch coach Marco van Basten went chasing the win when he subbed on midfielder Rafael van der Vaart and the biggest name in world football Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink late in the match.

    Several chances in the Portugal box went begging as the Dutch tried in vain to get an equaliser with influential wingers Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie going missing in the second 45 minutes.

    First half highlights

    In earlier action, Mark van Bommel had a golden chance as early as the 2nd minute, shooting from the top of the box with his shot going just wide, with the midfielder given a yellow card just seconds later for a challenge from behind on Cristiano Ronaldo.

    In the 7th minute a crunching tackle by Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz on playmaker Ronaldo earned the Hamburg player a yellow card, with the Portuguese midfielder succumbing to the injury caused by the tackle in the 34th minute when he was substituted for Simao.

    Paris Saint-Germain striker Pauleta had a swivelling shot blocked by the legs of van der Sar in the last minute of the half.

    The Netherlands are now out of the tournament, and one gets the feeling they never reached the heights expected of them in their four matches on the world stage.

    A decimated Portugal travel to Gelsenkirchen on Saturday to face underperforming England in what should be a very interesting quarter final battle.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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