LYON, France (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal into its second European Championship final, scoring with a powerful header and then setting up Nani’s goal soon after in a 2-0 win over Wales on Wednesday.
The goals came in the space of three minutes early in the second half in Lyon, helping end Wales’ unlikely run to the semifinals in only its second ever major tournament.
Ronaldo equaled Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in European Championship football when he timed a prodigious leap to perfection and planted home a header in the 50th.
The Real Madrid star then sent in a long-range shot that a sliding Nani diverted into the net from 10 meters.
Ronaldo— a serial winner in club football — will get another chance to win his first trophy on the international stage, with Portugal playing France or Germany in Sunday’s final at the Stade de France.
Portugal last competed in a final at Euro 2004, when the team lost on home soil to Greece. A 19-year-old Ronaldo shed tears after that match, but he has managed to lead a much weaker side to another international showpiece.
Portugal had been extra-time specialists in recent knockout games in major tournaments, and hadn’t previously won a match in regulation 90 minutes in France. But Ronaldo produced two telling moments to ensure there would be no late drama here.
He was upstaged by Madrid teammate Gareth Bale in a cagey first half, with the Wales star impressing with surging runs and twice going close with shots.
Then Ronaldo took center stage, as he invariably does on the big occasion.
The owner of the best leap in world football, Ronaldo timed his jump perfectly and headed home Raphael Guerreiro’s cross off a short-corner routine. Wales defender James Chester had no chance as Ronaldo made contact from just outside the six-yard box for his third goal of the tournament.
When Nani turned in a shot from Ronaldo that was drifting wide, the surprise run of Wales — the rugby-mad nation of 3 million people — was about to end.
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