Marseille: Cristiano Ronaldo found himself overshadowed by the rising star of Portuguese football, 18-year-old Renato Sanches as they booked their place in the Euro semifinals. The quarterfinal clash had been billed as a shootout between two of Europe’s leading marksmen. Poland’s Robert Lewandowski and Ronaldo. Between them, they scored 93 goals for Bayern Munich and Real Madrid this season.
Yet, rather than being revived by Ronaldo, Portugal’s saviour was Sanches. His energy, class and brilliant goal brought Fernando Santos’s men back to life. “It is a wonderful moment for the team and for me for scoring, we have been working very hard and we have been doing our best,” the teenager said. Sanches had not started an international match before. Sanches took control with his power and energy in midfield and got his reward.
Sanches went ahead of Ronaldo as the youngest ever scorer in the knockout stages in the Euros. Sanches’ equaliser for Portugal that cancelled out Robert Lewandowski’s early goal oozed quality and remarkable self-confidence for a player so young and inexperienced on such a big stage.
Sanches both started the move and finished it. Running, full of attacking intent, headlong into the Polish box, he flicked the ball wide to the quick-thinking Nani, who tricked the Polish defense by heeling it straight back to Sanches. Caressing the ball onward with his right foot, Sanches set himself up for a left-footed thump that beat Polish ’keeper Lukasz Fabianski. The goal wasn’t Sanches’ only contribution. The attacking midfielder was all over the pitch. He harassed Polish players and selflessly tracked back — unlike Ronaldo — from his right wing to help out with defense and then get Portugal going forward again....