Day five of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship took place on Tuesday. Serbia took on Macedonia in Bydgoszcz, and in the day’s late kick-off, tournament favourites Spain faced Iberian rival Portugal in a heavyweight match-up.
UEFA European Under-21 Championship Day Five Review
Serbia 2 – 2 Macedonia
Portugal 1 – 3 Spain
Serbia and Macedonia’s tournaments likely over
After losing on matchday one, both Serbia and Macedonia were in desperate need of a win. Starting the game well, Serbia looked the better of the two sides, with Macedonia appearing uninterested. In the 24th minute, Mijat Gačinović gave Serbia the lead, reacting well after the ball fell to him near the penalty spot. As half-time neared, Serbia were in full control of a game they had to win.
Macedonia’s half-time team talk did wonders, with Blagoja Milevski’s team getting back into the game. In the 63rd minute, a Macedonia cross hit the arm of Serbia’s star man Andrija Živković. Scottish referee Bobby Madden gave the penalty to give Macedonia a golden opportunity. Enis Bardi stepped up and converted from the spot, giving his team some hope.
30 minutes of madness
Bardi’s penalty was just the beginning of a crazy 30 minutes. All of a sudden, Macedonia began to take control. Possession and momentum were in their favour, putting Serbia under constant pressure. This game was a tale of two halves, with Macedonia turning the tables on their opponents. Nikola Gjorgjev gave the underdogs a shock lead; a goal that Macedonia fans thought was a game winner. However, in a back-and-forth second half, Serbia found a way back into the game. Serbia captain Uroš Djurdjević found himself open at the back post to snatch a late equaliser.
This draw felt like a devastating loss for Macedonia, with Serbia stealing what would have been a historic victory. Gameday three presents a huge challenge for both teams. Serbia and Macedonia are in need of a miracle if they are to have any chance of qualifying.
Spain defeat Portugal to take control of Group B
This was the day’s most significant game, with the winner likely winning the group. In an eventful first half, both sides created chances but only one team found the back of the net. Spain took the lead through a Saúl Ñíguez goal, in the 21st minute. Moving the ball well, Albert Celades’ side looked like scoring every time they went forward.
The second half was no different for Spain. Portugal were constantly under pressure, which cost Rui Jorge’s team. Sandro Ramírez doubled Spain’s lead in the 65th minute and Portugal now had a monumental task on their hands. In a game where possession was rather even, Spain’s advantage came from their use of the ball. Creating significant chances, they could do no wrong going forward.
Portugal scored late on before Spain secured victory through a late Iñaki Williams breakaway goal.
Spain continue their dominance
Tournament favourites at the start, Spain have maintained their status as the team to beat. They beat Macedonia convincingly, outclassed Portugal and have the quality to go on and win the tournament. Manager Albert Celades has found the right mix of players as Spain now sit atop of Group B.
Player of the day—Saúl Ñíguez
Atletico Madrid midfielder Saúl played a key role in Tuesday’s win. Scoring for the second game in a row, the 22-year-old has impressed in his past two games. He controlled the game from the middle of the park and scored an excellent solo goal to give his team the lead. His goal was similar his efforts against Macedonia, and it got the ball rolling for his team in the same way. Expect Saúl to lead this team deep into the tournament.