Spain are through to the Euro Under-21 Championship final after a comfortable 3-0 victory over Norway at the Netanya Municipal Stadium in Isreal.
The current holders were unplayable in the first half but only went into the break with the one goal to show for it and it took two late efforts to seal their place in the final, where they will play either Italy or the Netherlands.
The tournament favourites started brightly and could have been ahead twice through Isco in the opening 20 minutes. The Malaga midfielder went close inside ten minutes when he created some space for himself on the edge of the Norway area before curling his effort just wide.
He was denied once more after 16 minutes after being set up by Cristian Tello. Isco took his team-mate’s pass inside the area and evaded his marker with some tidy footwork before hitting a fizzing shot on the spin. Orjan Nyland Haskjold in the Norway goal provided a stunning one-handed stop to deny the much sought-after Spaniard.
It wasn’t the only time Norway’s shot-stopper was called into action in the opening half as effort upon effort had to be kept out by the Molde custodian.
He produced a fine stop from Tello after Isco had returned the favour to set up the Barcelona forward, diving low to keep out a rasping effort that was sneaking inside the post and moments later a fine double stop frustrated his opponents further yet.
Martin Montoya fired in the initial effort after controlling a clearance following a corner. The Barcelona full-back’s thunderous effort could only be palmed into the path of Rodrigo by Nyland Haskjold, but the keeper showed superb reactions to get back to his feet and tip the Benfica striker’s scuffed effort onto the post.
Fredrik Semb Berge then appeared to catch Marc Bartra with a clumsy tackle as the defenders raced to retrieve the loose ball in the area, but it was the Barcelona centre-back who was penalised for diving and subsequently booked.
Spain kept knocking at Norwegian goal and eventually it gave way right on the stroke of half-time. A corner was delivered into the Norway area and after being headed straight into the air, Bartra rose highest to nod the ball down into the path of Rodrigo, the Benfica forward providing a clever finish with the outside of his left boot to flick the ball beyond Nyland Haskjold.
The timing of the goal was cruel on Norway, and especially Nyland Haskjold, who put in an incredibly first half display to keep the Spanish attacking trio at bay, but the Scandinavians came out in the second half with renewed purpose and almost got themselves on level terms.
Markus Henriksen had an opportunity early in the second half but he took too long to take aim and his effort was delfected over the bar for a corner as Norway pressed.
Stefan Standberg then had two chances to draw his side level from set pieces. The centre-back nodded over from a corner when he rose highest in the Spanish area and then fired wide when the ball landed at his feet in the six-yard-box from a free kick.
Norway were made to pay for those misses and just three minutes from time, Isco confirmed Spain’s place in the final. The Malaga magician danced his way into the area before poking the ball into the top right corner with the outside of his right boot.
Substitute Alvaro Morata then sealed the victory with a well taken third. The Real Madrid forward burst clear and, after rounding Nyland Haskjold, clipped the ball in from an acute angle to put a gloss on the scoreline.