MX23RW : Wednesday, July 28 17:09:54| >> :600:1850462:1850462:

Live Commentary: Spain 3-0 Norway - as it happened

Sports Mole's live coverage of the European Under-21 Championship semi-final between Spain and Norway.
2

Spain went into this afternoon's European Under-21 Championship semi-final against Norway as overwhelming favourites to progress, with both sides yet to taste defeat in the tournament.

Rodrigo Moreno's header deep into first-half stoppage time put Spain ahead after a dominant opening period, with Norway fighting hard to stay in touch.

With the tie still close late on, a fine solo effort from Isco doubled Spain's advantage, before Alvaro Morata added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time with his fourth goal in as many matches.

Here, look back at an impressive display from Julen Lopetegui's men with Sports Mole's minute-by-minute commentary below.


Sort:
Newest
Oldest
Afternoon European football fans. Thanks for joining Sports Mole on semi-finals day at the European Under-21 Championships in Israel. First up is an intriguing clash between tournament favourites Spain and surprise package Norway.

Defending champions Spain have been in ominous form during the last week, winning all three group matches thanks to a dominant, attractive game based around keeping possession. Julen Lopetegui's side are yet to concede in the tournament, progressing as Group A's top side with relative ease.

Norway's form has been the tournament's most pleasant surprise so far, with Tor Ole Skullerud's men still unbeaten following a solid Group B campaign. The core of Norway's successful side is built around regulars at senior level, including Blackburn Rovers forward Joshua King.

Skullerud's side were just seconds away from topping Group B, but conceded a last-gasp equaliser to Italy and were eventually forced to settle for second spot. That means a daunting semi-final clash against Spain this afternoon, but at least the underdogs can play without pressure and the weight of expectation against the reigning tournament holders.

BREAKING TEAM NEWS! Spain coach Lopetegui had a difficult decision to make in attack for today's clash, but opts to pick Rodrigo ahead of tournament top scorer Alvaro Morata, who drops to the bench. A full look at both starting XI's will follow in just a few moments.

SPAIN: De Gea, Montoya, Bartra, Martínez, Moreno, Illarramendi, Koke, Thiago, Isco, Rodrigo, Tello

NORWAY: Haskjold, Strandberg, Hedenstad, Elabdellaoui, Semb Berge, Henriksen, Eikrem, Johansen, Berget, Pedersen, King

Morata has scored three goals in as many matches for Spain, but is once again returns to the bench as Benfica forward Rodrigo returns to lead the line. Lopetegui has opted for the same starting XI that cruised past Germany in the group stages, with Isco, Christian Tello and Thiago Alcantara all providing creative options form advanced midfield positions.

Norway have Fredrik Semb Berge fit to start this afternoon, with senior internationals King and Markus Henriksen also keeping their places following Tuesday's draw with Italy. Stefan Strandberg will skipper the side in central defence, while goalkeeper Nyland Haskjold also returns to the starting XI.

A slight surprise for Norway is the omission of winger Yann-Erik de Lanlay, who has to settle for a place on the bench. Norway have certainly been boosted by the four senior internationals who joined the squad on Saturday, with Havard Nordtveit among the Under-21 regulars left out this afternoon.

PREDICTION! Today's semi-final is definitely a step up for Norway, but I do expect them to give Spain their sternest test of the tournament so far. Spain may be frustrated at times by a disciplined, compact defence but should still have enough to prevail, thanks to the creative qualities of Isco and Thiago. In a hard-fought clash I'll back Spain to come out 2-1 winners, with Rodrigo to net his first goal of the tournament in the process.

Thiago and Strandberg have just lead their respective sides out in Netanya, with Norway in a changed all-white strip. This is only the second time in their history that Norway have reached the last four of the European Under-21 showpiece, which gives you an idea of just how important today's match is to Skullerud's side.

Pre-match routines are just about over, with both sides ready to get the first semi-final underway. Spain must be considered overwhelming favourites to reach a second successive final, but can Norway provide a shock this afternoon? We are about to find out!

Norway get this knockout tie underway, shooting from left to right. They immediately pose an aerial threat in the penalty area thanks to long throw from Hedenstad, but Inigo Martinez is alive to the danger and heads clear to safety.

Spain have quickly settled in possession, with Isco slightly surprisingly starting the match in a wide left role. A slick pass from Montoya sees the full-back prove too quick for King, who concedes a free kick after a late lunge just inside his own half. Norway have dropped deep and will look to counter with pace and width when possible.

SHOT! The referee allows Spain to play advantage after Illarramendi is brought down just outside the penalty area, but Isco is just unable to profit as Norway smash clear through Elabdellaoui. Another slick passing move then sees Montoya and Koke stride forward, with Isco capitalising to cut inside and drive just wide from 20 yards.

Norway offer a threat at the other end for the first time, with King just unable to meet a powerful cross into the penalty area from Berget. Spain are quick to regain possession and build another patient attack, with Thiago dropping deep to pull the strings.

CHANCE! Spain carve their opponents open thanks to the quick thinking of Isco, who slides a superb pass behind the back four into the path of Tello. The winger is quickly closed down by Nyland and decides to clip a chipped cross towards Rodrigo in the six-yard box, but his attempted pass is deflected clear. A moment of hesitation just cost the Barca man a shot at goal there, but Spain look very comfortable in the early stages as they win a corner kick.

SHOT! As Norway head clear a corner kick they are too slow to close down Tello just outside the penalty area. The forward has time to take a touch and shoot, curling a low effort wide of the target under very little pressure. Norway are now struggling to leave their own half, instead choosing to drop deep and wait for the chance to break.

SAVE! Norway have Nyland to thank for parity after the goalkeeper's superb stop denied Isco from close range. The Malaga playmaker controlled with a wonderful pivot, beating his marker before curling towards the top corner. His effort looked destined to break the deadlock, but a strong hand from Nyland turned the ball behind for a corner kick.

Spain are annoyed as their opponents are awarded a corner kick, despite Pedersen's effort from range flying over the crossbar without a save of deflection. Johansen's delivery arrives at the near post with pace, but is easily headed clear with authority by Barta. Skullerud's side really must make more of those set-piece opportunities when they become available.

Another clever piece of close control from Isco has Spain attacking in numbers, with the playmaker eventually chipping into a packed penalty area. His dink finds Illarimendi, but the midfielder's overhead kick is flashed wide.

YELLOW CARD! Spain come within inches of taking the lead through Rodrigo, who has his rebound tipped onto the post after Nyland parried Montoya's fierce volley from range. As the ball trickled back into the six-yard box off the post Bartra contested the follow-up, but goes down under a sliding challenge from Strandberg. Spain want a penalty for the tackle, but the referee sides with Norway and books Bartra for diving. A relatively harsh call but somehow Lopetegui's side are still looking for an opening goal.

More measured possession from Spain, who involve both full-backs as the probe just inside the opposition half. Montoya then interrupts their dominance as he fails to control a wild attempt to switch play, with Norway gifted a throw in and a chance to regroup.

Norway are being forced to work very hard as they continue to chase Spain, with Tello eventually robbed out side by a strong challenge from Berget. The midfielder then slaloms through two challenges to win a free kick, giving his side the chance to clear and give an overworked defence a well-earned rest.

WIDE! Once again Isco drives inside to create chances, finding a clever run into space from Rodrigo. The forward is forced wide as he chases the ball, eventually deciding to shoot first time from a tight angle. His powerful effort flashes past Nyland but also beyond the far post, with Benfica striker still searching for his first goal of the tournament.

Pedersen shows terrific energy to track Bartra's forward busts and retrieve possession with a sliding tackle just outside his own penalty area. Bartra is equally quick to track back, atoning for his error by heading clear as Norway attempt to break through King.

Spain stride forward effortlessly as Thiago darts into the final third, but his searching forward pass proves just too strong for the diagonal run of Rodrigo. Norway have weathered a considerable storm and are close to reaching the break level as Strandberg hammers clear from central defence.

SAVE! Somehow Spain are still unable to score, with Nyland once again called into action. Illarramendi's deflected shot from 20 yards looked destined to find the bottom corner, but a sprawling stop from the keeper just about proved enough for Norway. Within a minute Nyland is the hero yet again, diving low to turn Tello's swerving strike round the post.

GOAL! Spain 1-0 Norway (Rodrigo)

All Nyland's last-ditch heroics are undone just before the break as Rodrigo flicks a header home from close range. That goal had been coming and it's the least Spain deserve, but slack marking allowed Rodrigo's deft header to creep beyond a bitterly disappointed keeper. What a horrible time to concede and that goal will surely change the complexion of the match now.

HALF-TIME Spain 1-0 Norway

In truth Norway can have little complaints about going into the break behind, but the manner in which they conceded will definitely disappoint coach Skullerud. Spain have been utterly dominant with a patient, passing style, with Isco and Thiago dictating play inside the opposition half throughout.

For much of the first 45 minutes Spain were frustrated by Norway keeper Nyland, who kept out Tello and Isco with superb saves from point-blank range. Forward Rodrigo will be utterly relieved to open his account for the tournament, particularly with his place in the side under considerable threat from Morata.

Spain's star performer this afternoon has definitely been Isco. The Malaga midfielder has looked effortless in possession, using a wonderful combination of skill and speed of thought to carve open Norway's stubborn defence on more than one occasion. Illarramendi comes a close second in a deeper midfield position, using possession wisely for such a young player.

Norway have mustered just one shot on target to Spain's 14, but must surely start to chase the game as the second half progresses. Pedersen and King have been almost completely isolated in attack, despite the best efforts of a hard-working midfield trio. Eikrem and Berget have proved willing runners in wide areas, but without sustained possession there is very little their more creative players can do.

SUBSTITUTION: Both sides are back out in Netanya, with Spain eventually joining Norway after a slight delay. Both sides have attacking options on the bench and indeed Norway have made a change of the break, with Nielsen replacing a frustrated King. The winger was impressive during the group stages, with efficient delivery from the left-hand side.

Spain are quickly back into their stride as Koke, Isco and Thiago all get early touches of the ball. Norway are able to retrieve possession and win a free kick inside their own half as Nielsen is sent flying to the ground by a late challenge from Montoya.

YELLOW CARD! Eikrem is shown Norway's first yellow card of the match after sliding in with studs showing on Martinez. There was little intent in that challenge but at international level that kind of tackle with a raised foot will almost always produce a caution.

Rodrigo is next to hit the deck after being caught with studs to the heel by Stranberg, who was deceived by the forward's quick feet. From the resulting free kick Thaigo's bending cross causes problems, with Bartra just unable to make contact as the ball sails wide of the far post. Norway are quick to restart play as Nyland smashes upfield, but Nielsen's run out wide cannot prevent a long diagonal trickling out for a goal kick.

CHANCE! For the first time Norway produce a moment of real quality in the final third through substitute Nielsen, who finds Henriksen in space just outside the penalty area. The midfielder takes a touch before lashing towards goal, but his powerful shot is deflected wide by an important late block from Illarramendi. Just signs there that Spain must guard against complacency at this stage, particularly with just a single-goal advantage.

SUBSTITUTION: Despite breaking the deadlock Rodrigo has been withdrawn on the hour mark, in keeping with Spain's first two group matches. On comes the prolific Real Madrid youngster Morata, who has scored three times in as many matches since joining the under-21 side for the first time in Israel. His first touch finds Tello, who has a curling cross just diverted clear by Strandberg.

Norway enjoy a rare spell of possession as Eikrem finds Henriksen out side. The midfielder has time and space to deliver a cross but gets his final effort all wrong, gliding an aimless pass beyond De Gea and out for a goal kick. The underdogs need precise crosses towards Pedersen from that range to have any chance of equalising, and are yet to force a single strike on target.

The encouraging signs continue for Norway down the left flank, with Elabdellaoui winning a corner kick after driving forward from full-back. Morata is on hand to clear the following corner, with Strandberg's header back into the danger zone only able to find Nielsen in an offside position.

Montoya's quick feet deceive two defenders, but Johansen moves quickly to intercept and set up the chance to break. Spain are stretched but once again Norway's final pass is a huge disappointment, with Berget not picked out despite finding space inside the penalty area. At the other end Spain attack through Tello, who has a low shot deflected behind for a corner kick.

Hedenstad wins a corner kick for Norway and elects to take himself. His superb curling cross finds a towering lead from Strandberg, but under pressure his powerful header flies well over the crossbar. That is probably the closest Norway have come to restoring parity, which bodes well for an exciting conclusion.

SUBSTITUTION: Spain decide to introduce fresh legs out wide, with Muniain replacing Tello on the right flank. Norway have also made a slightly more conservative change, with full international Nordtveit coming on for Eikrem with just under 15 minutes left to play.

Muniain comes very close to having an impact just after coming on, with the Athletic Bilbao playmaker sliding past his marker before sending a forward pass towards Morata. The forward is just caught on his heels as he chases the ball, allowing Nyland to come and claim just inside the penalty area. Another clever touch from Muniain then sees him combine with Isco, but the eventual shot is quickly charged down by Semb Berge.

SUBSTITUTION: A final throw of the dice for Norway, which is forced through necessity rather than a tactical switch. Johansen has pulled up with a problem and is quickly replaced by Berisha, who will likely serve as an attacking midfielder in the closing stages with the match now stretched at both ends.

YELLOW CARD! Out of almost nothing Nielsen's persistence has earned Norway a free kick in the final third, with the substitute robbing Montoya before being hauled to the ground by Illarramendi, who is cautioned for the late challenge.

A terrible waste of a promising set-piece sees Norway choose to go short, with Berisha lashing over from 25 yards. With a packed penalty area to choose from that decision by Hedenstad is quite ridiculous. Almost straight away get another free kick as Muniain fouls Berisha, surely this time a cross will reach the penalty area?

CHANCE! A superb whipped free kick from Hedenstad has Spain all at sea inside the box, with successive attempts to clear resulting in a hectic goalmouth scramble. Strandberg eventually reacts to poke an effort towards goal, but his lunging strike lacks direction and flies well wide from close range.

GOAL! Spain 2-0 Norway (Isco)

On the counter Isco has produced a quite magnificent finish to kill this match off in stoppage time. The playmaker darted inside two challenges with a clever dummy, before guiding a measured effort into the top corner with the outside of his right foot. Creative play at that standard is almost unstoppable. What a talent Isco is, with the Malaga playmaker replaced with just moments left by Sarabia.

GOAL! Spain 3-0 Norway (Morata)

With time running out Morata refuses to be forgotten, scoring for the fourth successive match with an instinctive finish. The forward's initial effort was kept out by Nyland, but he refused to denied, showing composure to bend the rebound home from a tight angle. The ultimate impact substitute is now favourite to lift the Golden Boot as Spain saunter into the final.

FULL-TIME Spain 3-0 Norway

A professional, controlled performance has seen Spain progress with relative ease into Tuesday's final in Jerusalem. Isco, Rodrigo and Thiago were all quite outstanding for Lopetegui's side, who on this evidence must be considered firm favourites to retain their title.

Norway battled hard and a chance to equalise at 1-0 through Strandberg, but were ultimately well beaten. The Netherlands or Italy now await Spain in the final, with their semi-final clash to take place later this evening.

That just about does it for this evening's first live text commentary from Israel, be sure to check in again at 7pm for Italy's clash with the Dutch to decide who meets Spain in the final. Good evening!

ID:89101: cacheID:89101:1false2false3false:QQ:: from db desktop :LenBod:restore:30128:
Restore Data
Share this article now:
Did you know...?
Italy coach Devis Mangia gestures after his side score against England on June 5, 2013
Read Next:
Live Commentary: Norway 1-1 Italy - as it happened
>

rhs 2.0
Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
JapanJapan124521
ChinaChina115824
United StatesUnited States1011930
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia78520
AustraliaAustralia61916
Great BritainGreat Britain56516
Today's Olympic highlights header

Thursday's key events


ROWING
· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

HOCKEY
· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

CANOE SLALOM
· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

> Today's schedule in full
Todays Game Header Right
Tables

Subscribe to our Newsletter


Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!