2017 U21 European Championship, Semifinals
  • Saúl Ñíguez (53', 65', 74')
  • Federico Bernardeschi (62')
  • Roberto Gagliardini (58')

Saul Niguez guides Spain under-21s past 10-man Italy and into final

Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images

KRAKOW, Poland -- Saul Niguez scored a second-half hat trick to fire Spain into the final of the European Under-21 Championship with a 3-1 victory over 10-man Italy on Tuesday.

Seeking their fifth title, Spain will meet Germany -- who beat England on penalties earlier in the day -- in Krakow on Friday.

For more than a half, the game looked little like the high-scoring 2013 final between the two that Spain won 4-2 to win the trophy for the fourth time.

With clear chances at goal missing, Spain looked dominant with Italy focusing on defence at early stages.

Lorenzo Pellegrini first tested Spain goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 22nd minute with a low attempt as Italy stepped up the pace with three straight corner kicks that followed.

Spain captain Gerard Deulofeu just missed the target, hitting the side of the net in the 31st.

Saul broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second half.

With brilliant control of the ball, Dani Ceballos moved to the center from the left flank, leaving several opponents behind, before presenting a perfect pass for Saul to net with a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Italy were then reduced to 10 men after Roberto Gagliardini received his second yellow, but the five-time champions still managed to equalise through Federico Bernardeschi nine minutes later with a low shot from inside the area.

Saul, who become the leading scorer of the tournament with five goals, didn't waste time and added two more.

In the 65th minute, the Atletico Madrid player netted with a long distance, left-footed drive for his second and completed his hat trick in the 74th -- again with a left-footed strike after capitalising on Marco Asensio's pass following his break down the left.