Germany dug themselves in a hole with a last-minute defeat at the hands of the Netherlands in the opening match of the UEFA Under-21 Championship last week and failed to get anything going against a tremendous Spanish side on Sunday, dropping the contest 1-0 in the final minutes to face elimination in the championship group stage.
Neither side was able to find the net in the opening minutes of action, but for Germany, keeping the opposition off the board was a small victory. As 101 Great Goals pointed out, the German side could get little going to start the match:
Spain applied pressure early and often in the first half, including a Thiago Alcantara strike that nearly found the inside of the net for an early Spain lead in the 22nd minute, as noted by AS English on Twitter:
In the 29th minute, Spain would get yet another chance to break the scoreless tie, as Rodrigo broke behind Germany’s back line and nearly missed sneaking one past Bernd Leno (via Jon Holmes of Sky Sports):
Germany spent far too much time defending in its defensive third in the early going, never able to push Spain out of the attack. As well as the Spanish side played in the first 30 minutes, Germany had to feel lucky they were able to stave off Spain’s early pressure.
Through 37 minutes, Spain held a convincing edge in attempted shots (6-3) and possession percentage (69-31), but had very little to show for it. While the Spanish side missed several opportunities, Germany at least deserved credit for keeping them off the scoreboard.
But in the 37th minute, Germany nearly turned the tables with a Christian Clemens strike from 25 yards that narrowly curled its way past David de Gea for the lead. It was a solid attempt at breaking open the match, but Germany would have to find a way to get deeper into Spain’s final third if they were to see many more quality scoring chances.
The first half closed without much more drama, but as was the case for the German side last week, they would have to come out in the second half with a new attitude and sense of purpose.
As Christian Nyari noted, Spain was just playing on another level in the first half:
But for as well as the Spanish side played, the match remained scoreless at the half. In a contest between two of the best Under-21 squads in the world, it looked as though one goal could be the deciding factor, as Libero Football pointed out on Twitter:
Spain continued to control possession in the second half, looking poised and confident facing a German side that scored at will in the second half against the Netherlands.
As TNC Bundesliga noted, the scoreless affair was shocking considering how potent both sides can be on the attack:
But the best word to describe the feeling of both teams in the ensuing minutes of the second half was “frustration.” For Germany, playing in their own defensive third was a hopeless cause. For Spain, missing opportunity after opportunity had to be equally deflating.
Germany’s back was against the wall in the contest, however. A draw wouldn’t adversely affect Spain nearly as much as it would Germany, given the latter’s loss to the Netherlands in the opening match. For either side to be pleased with the result, both teams would have to open things up in the final 30 minutes.
Unfortunately for Germany, Spain continued applying pressure in the final third, making it nearly impossible for the German side to flip the pitch with scoring chances of their own. If not for a tremendous performance in net from Leno, the match could have already been out of hand (via Simon Hart of UEFA.com):
The match statistics told nearly the whole story through 80 minutes. The Spanish side had attempted 19 shots to Germany’s six, accounting for 68 percent of the possession to that point. Given the tallies, it was a small miracle Germany was still in position to pull ahead in the final 10 minutes of regular time.
But in the 87th minute, Spain finally drove home the exclamation point on a tremendously played match (via AS English):
Spain had substituted Alvaro Morata into the match just 12 minutes earlier, but his late-match goal was an indication he should have been in long before that. With time winding down and his club running out of chances, the striker made his appearance count.
Given Spain’s propensity for passing their way into trouble, Morata’s aggressiveness on the attack was exactly what his side needed.
Germany simply had no answer for Spain’s coordinated attack throughout the match, and they were unable to get anything going in the final few minutes either. It was all Spain from start to finish.
With the 1-0 win, Spain stays atop the Group B ledger in a tie with the Netherlands at six points apiece. The two clubs will face off in the final match of the group on June 12 to determine the Group B representative for the finals.
With the loss, Germany is effectively eliminated from the championships. Despite a tremendous comeback effort last week, the Germans walked away from both championship-round matches with zero points to show for it.
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