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06/07/24 | 10:19 am

Spain dig deep to earn dramatic extra time victory over Germany

A Mikel Merino goal in the last moments of extra time gave Spain a dramatic 2-1 win over hosts Germany in an enthralling Euro 2024 quarter-final clash on Friday between the tournament’s two most successful nations.

The game was into the 119th minute and looked set for a penalty shootout when substitute Merino rose to head home the winner from Dani Olmo’s cross to decide an eagerly anticipated match that hit fever pitch as the teams slugged it out at a raucous Stuttgart Arena.

Spain were the better side for the first hour and wasted several opportunities before Olmo gave them a deserved lead six minutes after the break, drilling home a first-time shot into the bottom corner.

Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann made five substitutions in a desperate attempt to find the equaliser which paid dividends in the 89th minute as substitute Florian Wirtz, the Bundesliga’s player of the year for champions Bayer Leverkusen, hammered home a shot from Joshua Kimmich’s header to force extra time.

It was Spain, however, who found an extra gear when it mattered most to leave the German fans inside the stadium heartbroken after the hosts’ gritty display fell short by the narrowest of margins.

Germany pushed hard for a late leveller and fullback Dani Carvajal was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Jamal Musiala as he sought to avoid a counter attack.

He and centre back Robin Le Normand will now miss the semi-final, where Spain will face either Portugal or France who play later on Friday.

Carvajal’s red card was a fitting conclusion to an ill-tempered and nerve-racking encounter between two of the most impressive sides at Euro 2024. There were 38 fouls in the match and 16 bookings as referee Anthony Taylor flashed cards in an attempt to calm the situation.

Tensions were high from the first minutes following a nasty challenge by Germany midfielder Toni Kroos on Pedri who left the pitch in tears after sustaining what the Spanish FA said was a ligament injury to his left knee.

‘SO PROUD’

Pedri’s injury forced Spain manager Luis de la Fuente into an early change, bringing Olmo, who was named player of the match with a goal and an assist, off the bench.

“I’m so proud. What a great team! What a joy! But it’s not about me, it’s truly everyone’s tournament. The group is the most important thing,” Olmo told TVE.

“Let’s hope that Pedri’s injury is just a blow because he is very important. This victory is for him. I hurt my calf but I took a gamble and kept on playing. The heart is always more important than the legs.”

Spain had almost triple the amount of scoring attempts as Germany in the first half and kept up the pressure after the break, with Alvaro Morata missing from close range in the 47th minute.

However, after taking the lead four minutes later, Spain let Germany take control, with Julian Nagelsmann’s side hoping to end a winless run at tournaments against Spain that stretched back to 1988.

They seemed content to sit back and look to counter, which forced them to endure over 30 minutes of suffering, with Niclas Fuellkrug’s first-time effort from close-range smacking the post in the 77th minute.

Kai Havertz missed a great chance in the 82nd minute but Germany’s resilience paid dividends as Wirtz’s last-gasp effort found the bottom corner.

Roared on by the crowd, Germany missed several chances to score the winner and appealed vociferously for a penalty after the ball struck Marc Cucurella’s hand in the box, but both the referee and the VAR disagreed.

Their hopes were finally crushed when Olmo’s cross from the left wing found Merino bursting into the box to keep alive Spain‘s bid for a record fourth European Championship title.

(Reuters)

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