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Portugal beat England 6-5 on penalties to move through to the Euro 2004 semi-finals on Thursday after a pulsating encounter match at the Luz Stadium finished 2-2 after extra time.

David Beckham sent England’s first penalty over the bar before Rui Costa missed for Portugal. But after the teams were level after normal penalties, Portugal keeper Ricardo saved Darius Vassell’s kick and the keeper then stepped up to put the hosts into the semi-finals.

It was a shame such an epic encounter should be settled by penalties but the hosts could point to their greater adventure throughout the entire match as justification for their victory.

England went ahead on 2 minutes 24 seconds when a weak defensive header from Costinha fell to Michael Owen whose instinctive finish on the turn, beat goalkeeper Ricardo.

From that point onwards, Portugal took control. The hosts dominated possession and camped in England territory for the rest of the half. Figo, Deco and Ronaldo probed as England chased shadows in the midfield area. The game was reminiscent of England’s rearguard effort against France, but as on that occasion, their inability to retain possession was to prove their undoing.

Nuno Gomes headed wide on 25 minutes and Figo twice along with Deco squandered good free-kick opportunities. Nonetheless, there was a fluency to Portugal’s movements which England were unable to match.

At the other end, England counter-attacked and occasionally threatened. Owen chipped over when put through by Scholes and the Liverpool striker drew a good save from Ricardo with a snap shot from the edge of the area. However, England’s hopes suffered a significant setback when Wayne Rooney limped off with a twisted ankle.

The loss of their most dynamic figure at these championships appeared to affect England’s self belief and they retreated towards their own penalty area for the remainder of the half.

After the break there was no respite for England as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men continued their onslaught. However, despite their dominance, Portugal were struggling to carve out any clear openings. Ronaldo headed wide from close range and the substitute Simao flashed a shot wide. But otherwise, England appeared releatively comfortable defending on the edge of their area.

Scolari’s last throw of the dice was to introduce Helder Postiga for Luis Figo. It proved to be an inspired switch when the Tottenham striker leapt unmarked to head home Simao’s cross with 8 minutes remaining.

At this point it looked like England would crumble but to their credit, they launched one final attack on the Portugal goal. Vassell, who replaced Rooney, was brought down outside the penalty area and from the resulting free-kick Sol Campbell’s header hit the bar. From the rebound, Campbell forced the ball over the line but the referee disallowed the goal for a foul on Ricardo.

Television replays were inconclusive, but England clearly felt aggrieved that the decision had gone against them.

As the game became stretched in extra-time, Portugal still looked the side more liklely to achieve a breakthrough.

So it was to prove when substitute Rui Costa fired Portugal into the lead with a stunning strike from the edge of the box. There were only ten minutes remaining at this point but England came back again and midfielder Frank Lampard turned the ball in from close range with five minutes to send the match to penalties.

Beckham skied England’s first and Rui Costa also cleared the bar but all the remaining players were on target to make the score 4-4 as sudden death approached. Then Vassell saw his weak effort saved by Ricardo and the keeper then stepped up to hammer the final nail into England’s coffin.

Portugal go into a semi-final against Sweden or the Netherlands on June 30 at the Jose Alvalade Stadium in Lisbon.

On this performance, they look a vibrant outfit and appear to be improving with every game.

There is some sympathy for Eriksson’s team. Penalties remain a harsh way to leave a major tournament, but on the balance of play they could have few complaints.

Quarter Final D

Portugal 2-2 England

After extra time

Portugal win 6-5 on penalties

Scorers:

Portugal: Helder Postiga 83, Rui Costa 110
England: Michael Owen 3, Frank Lampard 126

Halftime: 0-1
Full time: 1-1
After extra time: 2-2

Teams:

Portugal: 1-Ricardo; 13-Miguel (10-Rui Costa 79), 16-Ricardo Carvalho, 4-Jorge Andrade, 14-Nuno Valente; 6-Costinha (11-Simao Sabrosa 63), 18-Maniche, 20-Deco; 7-Luis Figo (23-Helder Postiga 75), 17-Cristiano Ronaldo, 21-Nuno Gomes.

England: 1-David James; 2-Gary Neville, 5-John Terry, 6-Sol Campbell, 3-Ashley Cole; 7-David Beckham, 11-Frank Lampard, 4-Steven Gerrard (18-Owen Hargeaves 81), 8-Paul Scholes (14-Phil Neville 57); 9-Wayne Rooney (23-Darius Vassell 27), 10-Michael Owen.

Referee:Urs Meier (Switzerland)

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