Spain survive scare to see off Switzerland on penalties


Switzerland 1-1 Spain (Spain win 1-3 on penalties)

Mikel Oyarzabal was Spain’s penalty shootout hero, as his winning spot-kick finally dumped out brave 10-man Switzerland in St Petersburg and sent his side into the Euro 2020 semi-finals, where they’ll meet either Belgium or Italy next Tuesday.

Switzerland had beaten tournament favourites France in a shootout in the last round but there were misses galore as they were undone 3-1 on spot-kicks this time, after holding Spain to a 1-1 draw through extra-time, following Remo Freuler’s harsh red card on 77 minutes.

Spain had got off to a flying start to the match when a big deflection off Denis Zakaria took Jordi Alba’s shot past Yann Sommer but, despite losing key man Breel Embolo early on, Switzerland battled back and capitalised on another defensive howler from Luis Enrique’s side when Xherdan Shaqiri levelled.

Freuler’s sending off tilted the odds back in Spain’s favour but despite peppering Sommer’s goal in extra-time they couldn’t find a winner.

When Sergio Busquets hit Spain’s first penalty against the post in the shootout it seemed Switzerland may pull off another big upset, but while Rodri also failed to convert for Spain later on, errors from Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji, and Ruben Vargas allowed Oyarzabal to book his side’s place in the first semi-final at Wembley.

Spain had scored 10 goals in their previous two Euro 2020 games and they found the net inside 10 minutes on Friday evening, as Switzerland’s aim of recording a second shock in a row, after knocking out France in the last-16, got off to the worst possible start.

Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring the equaliser.

A poor Spain corner missed everyone in the box but came out to Alba and the defender’s drive was deflected in by Zakaria, leaving Sommer no chance.

It was a cruel twist for Zakaria, who was in the team as a replacement for suspended Swiss captain Granit Xhaka, and the 10th own goal of the tournament – more than had been seen at the previous 15 editions of the Euros combined.

Switzerland’s task got even harder on 22 minutes when Embolo was forced off with a hamstring injury, forcing boss Vladimir Petkovic into yet another rethink, as Spain bossed possession and Cesar Azpilicueta fired a firm free header straight at Sommer when he should have done better.

Akanji and Nico Elvedi headed over from corners later in the half but Spain were out of the blocks quickly again in the second, with half-time sub Dani Olmo shooting at Sommer – although an offside flag on Alvaro Morata may have denied him anyway.

Set pieces appeared to be Switzerland’s best hope of getting back into the game, with Shaqiri trying an audacious shot from one corner, before Zakaria headed narrowly wide from another.

Their best moment in open play came on 65 minutes when, Steven Zuber poked a shot at Unai Simon after good work from sub Vargas but clear chances were at a premium – until Spain gave them an absolute gift.

Aymeric Laporte had time and space to deal with a chipped pass forwards on the edge of his penalty area but his poor touch rebounded off Pau Torres and the loose ball fell to Freuler in the box, who had the simple task of squaring for Shaqiri to tuck in his third of the tournament.

Mikel Oyarzabal scores the winning penalty.

The pair of Spanish centre-backs almost reprieved themselves soon after but were unable to convert a free-kick into the Swiss box. However, their opponents were then reduced to 10 men.

Freuler’s sliding tackle on Moreno was fast and his feet slightly up off the ground and, while it would likely have gone unpunished in the past, referee Michael Oliver was quick to brandish his red card and VAR stuck with his decision.

A lacklustre Spain couldn’t make that advantage count during normal time, with a tame Moreno shot on target their only real effort of note during the closing stages of the 90 minutes – and the striker was culpable of a poor miss from inside the six-yard box when he met Alba’s cross at the start of extra-time.

As 10-man Switzerland tired, Spain finally stepped up their attacking intensity, with Alba’s shot tipped over, Olmo’s effort deflected wide, Sommer saving from close range from Moreno and Oyarzabal twice denied in the first half of extra-time.

Spain continued to rain shots on Sommer’s goal after the break but Switzerland stood firm, with Ricardo Rodriguez coming up with a brilliant block when Marcos Llorente looked certain to score, to force the tie to penalties.

In the shootout, Spain continued to struggle to find the net, with Busquets missing their sixth penalty in a row with his opening strike against the post, but three misses from the Swiss reprieved him and team-mate Rodri, as Luis Enrique’s side finally ended their opponent’s tournament to remember.

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