Portugal 1 Spain 0 - Gomes Inflicts Pain On Spain

Last updated : 21 June 2004 By Central Bear

But for Portugal the entertainment value meant nothing as they secured a famous victory in the Alvalade Stadium over their neighbours Spain, ending their interest in the competition in the process.

The game marked the beginning of the last stage of group matches and the kick-off times therefore ran simultaneously to avoid any accusations of unfairness. As the teams stood for the national anthems the atmosphere was electric as both sets of supporters - of which Spain provided a healthy 25,000 - added their own vocals to the tunes played.

This would have been a game worth seeing in its own right anyway, but due to Greece's unexpected form in this group, it meant that one of the sides on show would not be in the latter stages, so that added extra spice to a what was already a red hot fixture.

For Portugal, who pipped Spain to the right to host these finals, the thought of losing out on a place in the latter stages to their neighbours was one so horrific that it simply didn't bear thinking about. For the consistently inconsistent Spanish, the feeling was mutual.

Portugal brought in Manchester United's young winger Ronaldo to add a bit of width to their attack, a clear sign that they were going for the jugular in this contest. Spain's Inaki Saez, for his part, made four changes to the side that drew against Greece in the last game, the most surprising of which was the dropping of one Fernando in the shape Morientes, for another in the shape of Torres.

One can only feel for Morientes who seems to be doing nothing but trying to convince a bevy of coaches that he is a top drawer striker. Turfed out at Madrid, he banged goals galore for Monaco this season on-route to the Champions' League final, exacting revenge on Real on the way, yet he found himself the odd man out again tonight - dropped, despite the extremely average form of Raul in the this championship.

The deployment of two wide men in Figo and Ronaldo caused Spain no ends of problems as the two men continually switched sides, with Ronaldo in particularly causing real problems whenever he was in possession. However, for all their possession they just weren't creating any clear cut chances against a Spanish side that knew a draw would do them.

This meant that Spain were more calculating in their attack and as a result they did have the bigger threat about them whenever they decided to trouble the Portuguese defence. But the tension surrounding the game suffocated it, and it wasn't until the 44th minute that we had a chance worthy of note when Ronaldo headed wide from a Figo cross when scoring looked easier.

The second-half started off as sluggishly as the first have had finished and it became glaringly apparent that only conceding would provoke the Spanish to come out and play, the big question was did Portugal have enough to make that happen. We were given an answer to that question in the 57th minute in the most dramatic fashion when Nuno Gomes, who had come on at half-time for Pauleta, scored a quite magnificent goal.

Receiving the ball on the edge of the box with his back to goal, Gomes turned and fired a great shot past the despairing Casillas to give Portugal a vital lead. The relief in the stadium was tangible, and not just for those of Portuguese persuasion. For neutral observers, too, the goal was welcome as we all hoped it would open up the game and provoke the Spaniards to play a more attacking style. When Torres rattled the post of Ricardo just three minutes after the goal, we felt vindicated.

That effort from Torres, though, was really all they had in the second half, although Helguera did hit the upright again with a looping header, but if anything the hosts could have, and should have, extended their lead. Bravo produced a superb clearance on the line when it looked like Maniche had doubled Portugal's lead after rounding Casillas, and Gomes also had a good chance in the dying seconds that the Real Madrid keeper done well to save.

Spain threw on Morientes in the last ten minutes in a bid to get that goal that would have put them through, but Portugal rarely looked troubled by this point and the introduction of Couto strengthened them even more at the back.

When the final whistle did come, it was to an explosion of noise and celebration by the home support at winning their first competitive against their perceived bigger and better neighbours. For Spain, though, the questions remain and the form of certain players, Raul in particular, have left a lot to be desired, and as a result they have found themselves on the way home just as the party is really getting started.

Spain: Casillas, Puyol, Juanito (Morientes 81), Helguera, Bravo, Joaquin (Luque 72), Alonso, Albelda (Baraja 66), Vicente, Raul, Torres.

Subs Not Used: Canizares, Aranzubia, Capdevila, Gabri, Etxeberria, Cesar, Xavi, Valeron.

Booked: Albelda, Juanito, Puyol.

Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel, Andrade, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Costinha, Figo (Petit 78), Maniche, Deco, Ronaldo (Couto 85), Pauleta (Nuno Gomes 45).

Subs Not Used: Quim, Moreira, Paulo Ferreira, Rui Jorge, Rui Costa, Simao, Beto, Tiago, Postiga.

Booked: Pauleta, Nuno Gomes.

Attendance: 47,491

Referee: Anders Frisk (Sweden).