JONATHAN SHALLARD REPORTS: Spain stuttered past Switzerland and into the semi-finals of Euro 2020 3-1 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 extra-time draw in St Petersburg. They will play Italy in Tuesday’s semi-final at Wembley.
The Spanish were the better team but took their foot off the pedal too often during a match which the courageous Swiss had to play for 43 minutes with 10 men after the 77th-minute sending-off of midfielder Remo Freuler.
Switzerland, perfect in their shootout upset of favourites France in the round of it, were the more nervy of the two punch-drink boxers in the shootout. Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji both saw their kicks saved by Unai Simon before Ruben Vargas shot over the bar. That left Mikkel Oyarzabal to beat Yann Sommer and keep Spain dreaming.
The three-times European champions had only themselves to blame for making such hard work of it.
Luis Enrique’s men achieved a perfect start, opening the score after only eight minutes.
A right-wing corner Koke skated across the penalty box and when Jordi Alba hit a cross-shot back into the melee where Denis Zakaria jabbed out a leg to divert the ball past Yann Sommer.
The three-times European champions achieved a perfect start, opening the score after only eight minutes. A right-wing corner Koke skated across the penalty box and when Jordi Alba hit a cross-shot back into the melee where Denis Zakaria jabbed out a leg to divert the ball past Yann Sommer.
The Swiss carried on as positively in the second half as they had ended the first and Zakaria directed a header tantalisingly wide of Unai Simon’s right-hand post.
Their next raid caught the Spanish defence asleep. This time Ruben Vargas wriggled through on the left and Steven Zuber slipped in on the blindside only for Simon to claw the ball away for a corner.
Spain’s defence was at fault again minutes later.
Centre-backs Pau Torres and Aymeric Laporte muddled each other up and Freuler squared for the unmarked Shaqiri to shoot the equaliser from directly in front of goal.
Delight turned to despair for Freuler in the 77th minute when he was sent off by English referee Michael Oliver for a reckless foot-up tackle on Gerard Moreno. The Swiss protested but VAR was content for the decision to stand.
Spain, disappointingly aimless throughout the second half, only began to wake up in extra time. They created a sequence of half-chances and then Mofeno and substitute Mikel Oyarzabal, twice, forced solid from Sommer.
Same again in the second half with Spain laying siege to the Swiss goal. Sergi Busquets rose to a left-wing corner at the near post but Sommer denied him just as the keeper dived left to hold a drive from Moreno.
Newly-arrived substitute Rodri headed over the bar in the very last minute and that meant another penalties shootout.
Luis Enrique, Spain coach: “We are so proud. It’d be ridiculous to think that we, or any of the semi-finalists, would sign for just getting that far now – all of us want to get to the final and win.”
Gerard Moreno, Spain forward: “We’ll resolve our various errors by working on the training ground. You make a mistake and the test is being mentally strong. Right now, I feel a ‘liberation’ that we’ve won. If not, I think the misses would have played on my mind.”
Unai Simón, Spain goalkeeper: “We have to go into the semi-final fresh, confident and with our heads high. We have to win the EURO now.”
Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland forward: “I’m really proud of the team. Penalties are a bit 50-50. I was nervous watching the shoot-out. I think we just lacked a little bit of luck today.”
Switzerland: Sommer – Elvedi, Akanji, Rodríguez – Widmer (Mbabu 100), Freuler, Zakaria (Schär 101), Zuber (Fassnacht 90+2) – Shaqiri (Sow 81), Embolo (Vargas 23); Seferović (Gavranović 82).
Spain: Unai Simón – Azpilicueta, Pau Torres (Thiago Alcántara 113), Laporte, Alba – Koke (Llorente 90+1), Busquets, Pedri (Rodri 119) – Sarabia (Olmo 46), Morata (Gerard Moreno 54), Ferran Torres (Oyarzabal 91).
Referee: Oliver (Eng).
Penalties (Spain first): Sergio Busquets hits post 0-0; Gavranovic 0-1; Dani Olmo 1-1, Schar saved 1-1; Rodri saved 1-1, Akanji saved 1-1; Gerard Moreno 2-1, Vargas over bar 2-1; Oyarzabal 3-1.