Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez fired a glorious treble as Spain booked their place in the U21 European Championships final against Germany with an impressive 3-1 win over 10-man Italy.
Saul struck superb efforts on 53, 65 and 74 minutes to floor Italy, who equalised via Federico Bernardeschi after Roberto Gagliardini had been sent off for a second booking for persistent fouling four minutes earlier.
The Azzurri showed good resilience throughout the contest, but were eventually broken down by the superior quality of the Spanish frontline, with Saul the man who put them to the sword with three exceptional finishes.
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Spain's players celebrate after Saul Niguez's goal.

Image credit: Reuters

TALKING POINT - Is Dani Ceballos a superstar in waiting?

Spain certainly aren’t short of exceptional midfielders, even at this level, but in Dani Ceballos they might have another superstar. The Real Betis man controlled the centre of the pitch, knowing when to spray passes out to teammates and when to take on opposition players. Could his performances in this tournament draw the attention of some of Europe’s elite?

MAN OF THE MATCH - Saul Niguez (Spain)

The Atletico Madrid midfielder has earned a reputation for himself as a big game player, and he only served to underline that reputation with a hat-trick to decide this game for Spain. All three of Saul’s finishes were sensational, sparkling in the centre of midfielder alongside the extremely impressive Ceballos. They were the two best players on the pitch.

PLAYER RATINGS

Spain - Kepa 7, Bellerin 7, Mere 6, Vallejo 5, Jonny 6, Llorente 7, Ceballos 9, Saul 9, Deulofeu 7, Asensio 8, Sandro 6. Subs - Denis 6, Williams 6, Oyarzabal 5.
Italy - Donnarumma 6, Calabria 6, Rugani 5, Caldara 5, Barreca 6, Benassi 7, Gagliardini 4, Pellegrini 7, Chiesa 6, Petagna 5, Bernardeschi 7. Subs - Locatelli 5, Garritano 5, Cerri 5.

KEY MOMENTS

53’ GOAL! Spain U21 1-0 Italy U21: Spain have the lead! The ball was fed into Saul just inside the Italian box, taking the first touch with his right and sweeping home a finish with his left foot. Outstanding play.
60’ SENT OFF! Gagliardni is shown a second yellow card for a late tackle. No complains. Italy are down to 10 men.
63’ GOAL! Spain U21 1-1 Italy U21: Out of nowhere, Italy have scored an equaliser! They have been second best and are down to 10 men, but Bernardeschi takes the shot on himself from 20 yards, with the strike picking up a deflection on its way in.
65’ GOAL! Spain U21 2-1 Italy U21: Saul has his second of the match and Spain are back in front! What a strike that was from the Atletico Madrid midfielder! He struck it with so much power, Donnarumma didn't stand a chance.
74’ GOAL! Spain U21 3-1 Italy U21: There's the hat trick! Asensio finds Saul with a low pass to the penalty spit and the Atletico Madrid midfielder makes no mistake in sweeping home a finish from Donnarumma. Great finish!

Saul Niguez of Spain celebrates scoring his sides third goal with his Spain team mates during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Semi Final match between Spain and Italy at Krakow Stadium on June 27, 2017 in Krakow, Poland.

Image credit: Getty Images

KEY STATS

Spain have reached the final of three of the last four U21 European Championships.
Saul Niguez became the third Spanish player ever to score a hat-trick at the U21 Euros after Thiago and Marco Asensio.

MATCH IN A TWEET

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