Spain U19 enjoyed a successful start to the defence of their UEFA European Under-19 Championship title in Estonia with goals from Jesé Rodríguez and Derik Osede helping them to a 2-1 win against Greece. Barcelona pair Gerard Deulofeu (18) and Alejandro Grimaldo (16) both produced impressive outings, with the former providing the assist for the first goal and playing a role in the second, while the latter earned plenty of plaudits for his performance, from both Cules and neutral fans alike, on the social media outlet twitter.
Greece, who failed to concede a single goal in the elite round qualification, were two behind at the break, as Jesé netted a fine effort on the half-hour before defender Derek Osede fired in from close range ten minutes later. Greece improved after the break and although rewarded with a strike from their talisman Dimitris Diamantakos, finished the encounter defeated.
The five-time winners Spain started to find their rhythm early in the game, with Gerard Deulofeu in particular threatening with pace and skill down the right. It was from such a run that Julen Lopetegui’s side scored their first, the FC Barcelona man racing goalwards and feeding Jesé, who took his time before slotting low past Stefanos Kapino from the left.
Spain won all three of their qualifiers to reach the finals in Estonia and they appeared on course for another triumph here when Osede pounced to smash in Juanmi’s cut-back from a Gerard Deulofeu corner. Greece rallied as they sought to avoid a repeat outcome of the teams’ meeting in the 2007 U19 final, which Spain won, and they should have reduced the arrears through Giorgos Katidis, but he shot wide having raced clear.
Greece pushed further forward after the restart. Diamantakos fired narrowly wide 20 minutes in but the striker made no mistake moments later when firmly striking past Spain goal-keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from inside the area. Spyros later drew a smart stop from the Spain No1 and Giannis struck narrowly wide as Greece chased for an equaliser to no avail.
Editors Man of the Match: Alejandro Grimaldo
The 16-year-old left back, who is also the youngest player in the tournament, was ever impressive on the night for La Roja, as he proved to be a constant thorn in Greek defence with his marauding runs down the left flank, while also proving to be ever reliable in the defence. The defenders positional awareness is second to none, and he proved once again why he is widely regarded as one of biggest prospects to emerge from La Masia in recent years.
Spain U19 starting XI vs Greece:
Oliver Torres (Sub: Jose Campana, 64″)
Jese Rodriguez (Sub: Paco Alcacer, 52″)
Gerard Deulofeu (Sub: Juan Bernat, 84″)
1-0 Jese Rodriguez (30″)
2-0 Derek Osede (40″)
2-1 Diamantakos (66″)
For more info on the Barcelona youth, follow us @Youngcules