Two goals from Xabi Alonso on his 100th international appearance were enough to secure Spain a 2-0 win against France and set up a semi-final tie with rivals Portugal.
The Real Madrid midfielder found himself unmarked in the French penalty area after 19 minutes and made no mistake in heading low and hard past keeper Hugo Lloris.
France rarely threatened Spain with Yohan Cabaye’s well hit free-kick being as close as Les Bleus came to taking anything from what was a somewhat drab affair.
It would be Alonso’s night as the Real Madrid midfielder sent Lloris the wrong way with an injury time penalty after Anthony Reveillere clumsily bundled Pedro over in the area.
Once again Spain took to the pitch without a recognised centre forward, with Cesc Fabregas replacing Fernando Torres in what was an otherwise unchanged line-up for the reigning champions.
In a game of few chances, it was Alonso who broke the deadlock, showing again that you can win games without a number nine on the field.
The tireless Jordi Alba showed great pace to burn past Mathieu Debuchy and onto Andres Iniesta’s through pass, before showing great awareness and poise to clip a ball to the back post to where Alonso had arrived unmarked and powered past a helpless Lloris.
Through their usual brand of possession football, Spain were able to suffocate the French into submission, as Cabaye’s long range free-kick forced Iker Casillas’s only notable save of the night, who routinely tipped it over the crossbar.
Both managers made substitutions to try and liven up a laboured contest, and it was Vicente Del Bosque’s decision to replace David Silva with Pedro that would clinch the game.
The tricky winger, making his first appearance of the tournament so far, received a pass from Xavi in the penalty area, before skinning Adil Rami with a clever step over and being knocked to the floor by Reveillere.
Man of the match Alonso made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending Lloris the wrong way and sweeping the ball into the corner of the goal, clinching a semi-final spot for La Roja.
Spain now face Portugal in an all-Iberian encounter in the Semi-final on Wednesday night, as they bid to be the first nation to successfully defend their European crown.
(Original post: http://sportsbyte.sunderland.ac.uk/?p=15762)