Spain Under-21s rule Europe again
By Football News
Spain have retained their UEFA European Under-21 Championship crown after a 4-2 win over Italy in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Barcelona star and captain Thiago Alcantara was the star man at the Teddy Stadium, netting a 'perfect' hat-trick to set Julen Lopetegui's side on their way to a comfortable win that mirrored the two nations' UEFA Euro 2012 final in many respects, which also finished in a comfortable win for Spain, 4-0.
The Spanish started quickly and were ahead in the sixth minute, as Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata turned neatly on the left before clipping a ball into the area that Thiago headed home, unmarked, from six yards out.
However, Devis Mangia's youngsters rallied and were level just three minutes later as Ciro Immobile controlled a long ball from the back brilliantly before lobbing David de Gea, the first goal conceded by the Manchester United man in the tournament.
Spain were dominant, though, and retook the lead shortly after the half hour as Koke clipped a ball into Thiago, who took advantage of Luca Caldirola's misjudgement of the ball to cut onto his left foot and slam an effort that Francesco Bardi could not keep out with his feet.
The Barca playmaker, who has been linked with a departure from Camp Nou in the off-season, had his and Spain's third in the 38th minute, coolly slotting a penalty home after Giulio Donati had chopped Cristian Tello down in the area.
The passing style that has typified the senior Spanish team was also on evidence from their youth side, as they grabbed a firm stranglehold on possession, limiting Italy to almost no sightings of goal.
And they had a fourth of their own 20 minutes after the break as Isco converted a penalty after Vasco Regini felled Martin Montoya.
Liverpool's Fabio Borini struck in the final 10 minutes to keep Spain on their toes, but they comfortably saw out the win to secure their second straight and fourth overall Under-21 European title.