Portugal 1-3 Spain: match report
For many, this was the game of the group stages. A dynamic Portugal versus an excellent Spain side was the perfect solution to sift through the rubble in an effort to see who would contend and who might fall away as the tournament progresses.
Portugal, as it turns out, did not wilt but had nothing to respond with when Spain turned on the heat as they proved they are more than just an attacking juggernaut under Albert Celades. They picked off Portugal on the break and were capable of soaking up pressure without ever giving giving their opponents too much hope.
Spain took the lead when Saul Niguez danced by a couple of Portuguese players before driving a shot towards goal. It took a slight deflection and caught out Varela but the build-up alone was worthy of high praise. In another big game, Atletico's midfield maestro proved his credentials.
It was the perfect antidote to a relatively quiet start by the Spaniards and from that point, they always held Portugal at arm's length.
They continued to look both robust in defense while causing problems for Portugal on the counter with Hector Bellerin, in particular, showing off some close control and good, direct running to ensure Rui Jorge's side could never rest easy.
Spain doubled their lead when captain, Gerard Deulofeu, crossed to the front post only for Sandro Ramirez to turn it home with an inch-perfect strike that wrapped up a comprehensive performance by the Malaga man.
Portugal gave themselves a fighting chance on 77 minutes after a prolonged period of frustrated long shots and half chances. Bruma was the man to drag them back into it when the ball landed on his left foot only for him to direct a volley past Kepa. The Athletic Bilbao keeper could have grown a foot last night and he still wouldn't have reached it, as it looped perfectly over the arching keeper.
In an effort to protect their lead, Spain continued to sit deep and the introduction of Iñaki Williams meant if they could get him free even once, the game could be put soundly to sleep. That was the case when Ruben Semedo was on the wrong end of a gaffe and he gifted the ball to Williams with work to do.
The Athletic Bilbao attacker powered forward and stood Semedo up before driving a low and ultimately unstoppable shot into the far corner to end the game at 3-1 with time expiring.
Spain will continue to the semi-finals while Portugal will hope that they can beat Macedonia and earn a spot in the last four as the group stage's best runner-up.
Portugal U21 v Spain U21: live online build-up
Portugal U21 v Spain U21 live: preview
Two of the stronger teams of the 2017 UEFA U21 Euro face off when Spain play Portugal to see who will finish as top dogs in Group B. Gdynia Stadium is the venue and the game kicks off at 20:45.
While many stand in awe of Spain, Portugal are no slouches either. Within their ranks they have Villarreal new boy Bruno Semedo and Valencia’s Joao Cancelo along with Renato Sanches in midfield with Bruno Fernandes. While Spain are strong all over, one of their stronger areas is midfield, which bodes well for Portugal as they will try to win that battle with their own superstars in the making and it has the possibility of becoming a very attritional affair in that sense.
They won their first game against Serbia comfortably on a 2-0 scoreline with goals from Goncalo Guedes and Bruno Fernandes, their captain, and while Renato Sanches wasn’t his usual excellent self, it may have been cobwebs after a difficult year with Bayern Munich. If the real Renato Sanches shows up, Spain could have a problem on their hands.
The sky is the limit for this group of players given the talent in their ranks. After a comfortable 5-0 win over Macedonia that saw man of the moment, Marco Asensio, end with a hat-trick, the question has been asked ‘Can anyone stop Spain?’ They are strong all over the pitch with experience in LaLiga’s biggest and best teams overflowing from the squad. They have Champions League winners and some of the hottest young defensive talent to come out of Spain in year including Jorge Mere and Jesus Vallejo, who could be the post-modern Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique.
This will be the game of the group stages and while Spain’s attack that consists of Asensio, Sandro Ramirez and Gerard Deulofeu is as good as you’ll get, there are still one or two tweaks that could be made to further improve the side. Macedonia were brushed aside based on individual brilliance but Albert Celades might feel getting Dani Ceballos on from the start could make them even better.
Portugal U21 v Spain U21 live stream online: betting
Fancy a 1-0 win for the Portuguese with Ricardo Horta netting ? A handsome 61/1 price awaits if that materialises.