On Saturday evening, Spain U21 won against Macedonia U21 in front of over 8000 fans in Gdynia. This was the first match of UEFA U21 European Championship for both teams.
Macedonia started boldly
Macedonia began the match attacking boldly and moving the ball around with confidence. Boban Nikolov and David Babunski had a couple of attempts on goal but none of them was on target. After 10 minutes Spain took over the initiative. After Gaya’s cross into the centre of the penalty area, Saul Niguez defeated Macedonia goalkeeper with an acrobatic overhead kick. Aleksovski tried to keep the ball out of the goal, but it found its way into the net anyway. Many thought it might have been the goal of the tournament, but 5 minutes later Marco Asensio shot from distance in top corner and scored his 1st goal that evening.
Macedonia didn’t give up
Despite being 2:0 down Macedonians still had some positive moments, but they were unable to defeat Kepa. In 34th minute Gayà’s cross from the left side hit Bejtulai’s right arm as he attempted to block the cross. Deulofeu, Spain’s captain, scored from the penalty spot and La Roja were leading 3:0.
The result of the first half did not reflect the reality correctly. Looking at the statistics of shots on target during the first half, it was 4-3 in Spain’s favor. It was however 9-16 in terms of overall attempts. Accuracy is definitely something Macedonia needs to focus more on.
The image of the game in the second half was very similar. Macedonia kept on trying, but Spain were controlling the game. In 54th minute Real Madrid’s ace – Marco Asensio shifted the ball to his left and powered a shot defeating Aleksovski for the second time. La Roja were leading 4:0.
Macedonians were very close to their first final-tournament goal with Babunski’s terrific volley hitting the crossbar. The result remained unchanged. Too many of their 24 attempts have been off target or blocked.
On Saturday evening Asensio managed to complete a hat-trick. In 72nd minute he intercepted the ball deep inside the Spain half and continued to dribble almost three-quarters of the length of the pitch before defeating Macedonia goalkeeper for the third time. With no doubt Marco Asensio was the star of the show in Gdynia. He also received the ‘Man of the match’ award.
At the post-match press conference Blagoja Milevski (Macedonia coach) said: “I am not sure I can accept congratulations after this result, but there were moments where we were Spain’s equal – we had equal possession for almost 60 minutes, we had organized attacks, we had corner kicks and shots on goal, and were almost level in that respect. I am proud of my players who almost matched Spain for 60 minutes, but after that we faded.”
Spain coach Albert Celades congratulated Marco Asensio on his hat-trick: “Congratulations to Marco for his hat-trick and his effort and the commitment with which he played. He is an example to all of us as a player who’s come from the senior national team, and from the Champions League, and who’s played with the motivation he has shown tonight. We’re blessed to have a lad with his quality, as a footballer and a person.” Celades also spoke about the next opponent (Portugal): “We have to be realistic, we have to play with same enthusiasm as today, we have to improve some of the things we did today to play against a team as strong as Portugal. I’ve spoken a lot about this, people make us favorites but that means nothing, it doesn’t win you games, the only thing is the effort, the commitment, the organisation and the quality.”
Next match in Tricity
The next match in Gdynia (Spain vs Portugal, 20.06.2017 at 20:45) will be very interesting, as both Spain and Portugal won their matches in the first round. Spain or Portugal? Who will we see in the semi-final of the tournament?