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Super Saul sends Spain to final

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Last Updated: 27/06/17 10:37pm

Highlights of the Under-21 European Championships semi-final between Spain and Italy.

Spain are through to the European U21 Championship final against Germany after Saul Niguez’s hat-trick gave them a 3-1 win over Italy.

Niguez opened the scoring in the second half (53) with a fine touch and finish on the edge of the box, before Italy’s Roberto Gagliardini was sent off for a second booking moments later.

But Italy levelled on 62 minutes through Federico Bernardeschi’s deflected effort from range, but Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul hit a superb second from 30 yards into the top corner just three minutes later.

Saul completed his hat-trick (74) with a low, controlled finish from 15 yards, meaning favourites Spain will face Germany in Friday night’s final following their penalty shoot-out victory over England.

Spain returned to full strength after resting 11 players for their final group game, meaning Gerard Deulofeu, Saul Niguez and Marco Asensio all started. Key Italian players Dominico Berardi and Andrea Conti were suspended.

Despite a lack of chances in the first half, the Krakow crowd were treated to an entertaining 45 minutes, with Italy going close through Andrea Petanga’s effort from an acute angle, saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Spain broke the deadlock eight minutes after the break through Saul, who received Daniel Ceballos’ ball in a central area, controlled superbly and stroked into the far corner past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Italy’s task seemed impossible a few minutes later as Gagliardini was shown a second yellow for fouling Ceballos, having unnecessarily brought down Gerard Deulofeu in the first half.

Player ratings

Spain: Kepa (6), Bellerin (6), Vallejo (7), Mere (6), Jonny (7), Llorente (6), Niguez (9), Asensio (7), Ceballos (7), Deulofeu (7), Sandro (7) Subs: Williams (6), Suarez (NA), Oyarzabal (NA)
Italy: Donnarumma (5), Rugani (6), Caldara (5), Calabria (5), Barreca (6), Pellegrini, Gagliardini (3), Benassi (5), Bernardeschi (6), Chiesa (5), Petagna (5) Subs: Locatelli (5), Cerri (5), Garritano (NA)
Man of the match: Saul Niguez

Saul Niguez of Spain challenges for the ball with Andrea Petagna of Italy

Saul Niguez of Spain challenges for the ball with Andrea Petagna of Italy

Saul Niguez of Spain challenges for the ball with Andrea Petagna of Italy

But Italy equalised against the run of play, with Bernardeschi’s fierce effort from 20 yards deflecting off the foot of Jesus Vallejo and past Kepa.

Spain regained their lead on 65 minutes through one of the goals of the tournament from Saul, finding the top left corner with little backlift from distance, leaving Donnarumma with no chance.

And he made it 3-1 with 16 minutes remaining, stroking home Marco Asensio’s cut-back from 15 yards into the bottom left corner.

Man of the match – Saul Niguez

Who else? When you can take a player valued at £55m to an Under-21 championship, you know you’re standing in good stead.

Saul’s first was a delight, trapping the ball and finding the corner past the highly-rated Donnarumma, but his second was world class. Out of nowhere, he struck home an unstoppable effort from range, leaving the neutrals drooling.

Watch Saul’s screamer in Spain’s 3-1 win over Italy

He’ll be linked here, there and everywhere again throughout the next few transfer windows, and with the 22-year-old on top form in Friday’s final, Spain will be very difficult to stop.

What next?

Italy head home after failing to make the final for a seventh straight tournament, while Spain face Germany in Krakow on Friday evening, live on Sky Sports.

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