Ronaldo wins Bale duel to reach second final with Portugal

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Cristiano Ronaldo was tetchy and grouchy, then majestic.

A bullet-header, a flex of his muscles for the cameras and an assist for Portugal's second.

Just three minutes' work from the Portugal captain against Wales.

It's why Ronaldo will lead Portugal into the European Championship final on Sunday. It's why Gareth Bale is going home as Wales' astonishing Euro 2016 journey ended.

Like so often at Real Madrid, Bale was eclipsed by Ronaldo.

Within weeks they'll be teammates again. And after the whistle blew on Portugal's 2-0 win, Ronaldo consoled Bale with an affectionate hug and words of comfort.

Here's a closer look at duel that pitted the world's two most expensive players against each other in the Lyon semifinal:



Portugal toiled through five games in France without winning inside 90 minutes. Ronaldo ensured there wouldn't be a sixth.

The three-time world player of the year scored twice in a 3-3 draw with Hungary in the group stage and it took a return to the southern city to find the target again.

It was a feat of Ronaldo's athleticism. A cross came in from Raphael Guerreiro, Ronaldo soared above James Chester to meet it and then planted a header into the net in the 50th minute. Bale could only watch helplessly at the far post.

Like so often, the celebration looked as important as the goal for Ronaldo.

Ronaldo darted to the corner flag, went on his back, awaiting the acclaim of his teammates. They knew their duty. Then it was time for the solo shot, with the spinning jump celebration that's his trademark right in front of the cameras.

All that was missing was a jersey being removed to flaunt his toned torso. He's probably saving that for the final against Germany or France.



Take your pick of the records in Ronaldo's possession.

Already the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League, Ronaldo is now level with Michel Platini with nine goals in European Championship finals.

He'll hope a 10th in his second final sees Portugal crown a career in which he has won every major club honor with a first international title.



A scuffed shot three minutes after his goal looked typical of the Ronaldo who has labored at times in this tournament. Fortunately for Ronaldo, Nani got on the end of it, diverting the ball into the net.

In this moment, it seemed there was no way back for Bale, who protested in vain to an assistant referee for offside.



Compensating for Aaron Ramsey's absence, Bale was forced to play deeper at times and lacked the creativity of his suspended teammate to create openings for him.

Wales couldn't rely on Bale alone.

But Bale at speed was still a sight of wonder that unsettled the Portuguese. He just couldn't produce a goal.

After charging with the ball from inside his own half, surging past a trio of Portuguese men in mint green, Bale could only strike the dipping ball into the arms of goalkeeper Rui Patricio.



Less than six weeks after they won the Champions League together for the second time, Bale and Ronaldo couldn't both prevail in Lyon.

Aside from the post-match hug, Bale and Ronaldo only came close to each other on the field once in the first half.

Ronaldo tracked back to try to stop Bale, but pulled out and allow Bale to continue running down the right flank to whip in ball that a Welshman couldn't get on end of.

Where Bale and Ronaldo were similar in Lyon was their wastefulness with free kicks.

That's nothing new for Ronaldo, who has now failed to score from 43 tournament free kicks for Portugal. And yet he still won't relinquish set-piece duties.

Bale has scored from two free kicks during the tournament but there was only frustration for the 100 million-euro forward.

The 26-year-old Bale, four years Ronaldo's junior, has age on his side. But playing for such a modest nation — despite its undeniable dedication — Bale might not have a better chance to contest a final.



The thorn in Ronaldo's side from the Welsh wasn't Bale but Ashley Williams and more often, James Collins.

Ronaldo was punching the turf in frustration, gesticulating toward the referee after no foul was awarded in the third minute when he was scythed down by Williams.

Further refereeing frustration came when Collins held Ronaldo in a headlock but no penalty was awarded. Ronaldo also tried to go for an overhead kick, but instead fell and thrashed the ground.

The Welsh defense — particularly Collins — was denying Ronaldo space to flourish in the first half.

So when Ronaldo cracked his first shot on goal, Collins intervened to deflect it wide. Ronaldo found no such barrier when it mattered in the second half.