Pablo Fornals, Spain Narrowly Beat Belgium 2-1 at 2019 U21 EURO

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2019

BOLOGNA, ITALY - JUNE 16: Jesus Vallejo of Spain U21  during the  EURO U21 match between Italy  v Spain  at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara (Bologna) on June 16, 2019 in Bologna Italy (Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Spain bagged their first win of the 2019 Under-21 European Championship on Thursday, narrowly beating Belgium 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Pablo Fornals.  

La Roja were the better team and took an early lead through Daniel Olmo, but Sebastiaan Bornauw hit back after 24 minutes. Spain had plenty of chances to reclaim the lead after the break, but they couldn't find the breakthrough until the final minutes, when substitute Fornals struck.

Both teams had lost their opening match in Group A, as Italy beat La Roja 3-1 and the Red Devils were upset by Poland, losing 3-2.

Spain dominated possession in the early goings but received a first warning after six minutes. Watford midfielder Dodi Lukebakio had the ball in the net, but fortunately for La Roja, he scored from an offside position.

Just two minutes later, Carlos Soler played in a nice pass for Olmo, who rewarded the Spanish pressure with a goal inside the opening 10 minutes.

AS' Robbie Dunne noted he didn't feature against Italy:

Robbie Dunne @robbiejdunne

Dani Olmo. 1-0. Big things expected of him in this tournament and he didn't play in first game. Lovely finish after 7 minutes against Belgium.

Spain continued to pile on the pressure, and Borja Mayoral nearly doubled their advantage after 11 minutes, blasting a shot over the mark from inside the box. Dani Ceballos also had a good look on goal with a free-kick, but his shot curled wide.

La Roja were in full control, but out of nowhere, Belgium pulled level after 24 minutes. A cross was worked back to Bornauw, and his effort took a deflection off Soler before finding the back of the next.

Once again, Spain were unable to keep hold of the momentum after a promising start:

Caño Football @CanoFootball

GOAL: Spain 1-1 Belgium Sebastiaan Bornauw scrambles home for Belgium from a deep cross. Similar story to Sunday nights openener for Spain as they start well, circulate in possession before being sucker-punched. #U21EURO #ESPBEL https://t.co/0z4oaAmzqc

The cooling break came at the right time for Spain, who immediately surged forward once the match got underway again. Ceballos found the post with a strong shot and put goalkeeper Ortwin de Wolf to work minutes later, while the stopper also had to deny Soler.

Belgium barely survived until the half-time break, and things hardly improved in the second half. Ceballos again found the woodwork, this time striking the crossbar with another free-kick, and Pablo Fornals aimed an open header right at De Wolf.

The goalkeeper was beaten when Ceballos showed up in front of him again, but the Real Madrid man couldn't keep the ball down, blasting over what should have been a second goal. 

Despite the miss, sports writer Joe Krishnan liked what he saw from Ceballos and Real Sociedad's Mikel Oyarzabal:

Joe Krishnan @joekrishnan

Would pay big money for Ceballos and Oyarzabal. They’ve got star quality. .

Fornals was the next man to go close, but his shot was blocked by Wout Faes. 

The Red Devils had a few looks on goal on the counter, but the bulk of the chances fell to Spain. Their pressure lessened in the final 20 minutes, but just as it seemed Belgium would hold on for an unlikely draw, Fornals blasted home from the edge of the box.


What's Next?

Both teams will be in action on Saturday, when Belgium face Italy and Spain take on Poland.


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