Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Merino heads dramatic late winner for Spain

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Stuttgart, July 5: The largest Barcelona contingent in Euro 2024 is still alive as Lamine Yamal, Pedri, Ferran Torres and Fermín López will represent Spain in the semi-finals after an epic 2-1 win over Germany in Friday’s quarter-final in Sttutgart.
Pedri went off injured early, Yamal was decisive during his hour-long cameo, and Ilkay Gündogan and Marc-André ter Stegen have been eliminated on home soil in the Last Eight after a dramatic 120-minute clash between two European giants who gave us a knockout match for the ages.
The game started with awful news for Spain and Barcelona as Pedri was forced off with an apparent knee injury after suffering a rough tackle from Toni Kroos that caused the Blaugrana magician to exit after just seven minutes and be replaced by Dani Olmo. Kroos’ tackle on Pedri set the tone for a very physical first half in Stuttgart, with both teams delivering tough challenges and quite a few yellow cards coming out of Anthony Taylor’s pocket.
No real chances were created by either side, and this felt like a heavyweight clash at a major tournament where the two teams were more interested in not conceding than taking risks in trying to score, and the match was goalless and in dire need of more entertainment in the second half.
La Roja didn’t take too long to bring the game to life in the second half thanks to Lamine Yamal: the Barça teenager received the ball with time and space on the right wing and played a gorgeous pass through the middle to find the run of Olmo, who passed the ball into the bottom corner to put Spain in front just five minutes into the final period.
After making two changes at halftime, Julian Nageslmann made two more near the hour mark which included Ilkay Gündogan’s exit from the game after a quiet evening, and the Germans became much more aggressive with and without the ball to try and get an equalizer while Spain were comfortable not having possession and trying to find a second on the counter.
Yamal was replaced after an hour by another Barça man in Ferran Torres to add fresh legs and a more defensive winger as La Roja prepared for Germany’s late pressure, and that pressure did come as the hosts fired plenty of crosses and shots but — apart from a Niclas Füllkrug effort against the post — never quite managed to truly trouble Unai Simón as we reached the final 15 minutes.
Luis de la Fuente made two defensive-minded changes to strengthen his midfield and add more pace up front for the final 10 minutes, and Spain’s plan was clear: protect their one-goal lead and hope to kill the game on the counter. But Germany never gave up, and their work was rewarded at the death when a cross from the left fell to Florian Wirtz and the Bundesliga Player of the Season fired it home off the post to equalize in the 89th minute and send the tie to extra time.The first 15 minutes of the additional period were as cagey as expected with neither side too eager to go forward and risk leaving spaces at the back, but there were still a couple of chances as Mikel Oyarzabal and Wirtz both saw their shots go agonizingly wide. (Agencies)

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