Spanish survive bitter battle
It was the Hatfields and McCoys of the soccer world who went cleat to cleat at Donbass Arena Wednesday, two bitter neighbours looking to steamroll the other en route to the Euro 2012 final.
Through the first 90 or so minutes of play, it was hard to keep track of the number of bodies strewn on the turf or the amount of face-to-face bitch sessions the players engaged in. And as for the flopping, well, some of these guys must have thought this was an audition for the Olympic diving competition, what with the London Games less than a month away.
Likely having to replenish his supply of yellow cards during the break before extra time after handing out eight to that point, Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir and his crew brought captains Iker Casillas and Ronaldo together to try to calm down the flaring tempers between the two Iberian Peninsula rivals.
Maybe that's why, after 120 minutes of kicking each other, it was fitting that the match was decided by penalty kicks.
In the end, Spain came out on top 0-0 (4-2 in penalties), punching their ticket to the final -- if not their opponents in the guts.
"I don't think there was a problem with the referee," Portugal manager Paulo Bento said when asked about some of Cakir's questionable calls. "We lost because Spain was more efficient in the penalties."
It was a tough night for Cristiano Ronaldo, who was off-target on three different free kicks, And when his optimistic gallop down the left side in the 90th minute resulted in a seven-iron that sailed into the vicinity of one of the stadium's many snack bars, the gleeful Spanish fans responded with chants of "Messi Messi" in honour of Ronaldo's No. 1 rival.
The worst was yet to come for Ronaldo.
And, all the while, the champs survive.
Because it's what they do.