International Matches - Under 21

Spain 1 - Northern Ireland 0

Spain: Víctor Valdés; Miñambres, Mario, Arzu, Navarro; Arteta, Xabi Alonso; Julio Alvarez (Jorge 66'), Portillo (Aganzo 74'), Riera; Fernando Torres. 4-2-3-1.
Northern Ireland: Morris; Baird, Clyde, Simms, Capaldi; Toner, Close (Hughes 70'), Melaugh, McCourt; Browne (McFlynn 81'), McIlveney (Braniff 90'). 4-4-2.

1-0. 92. Capaldi (own goal). Ball bounced in off his head after Riera free kick.

A fortunate own goal in injury time gave Spain's youngsters an undeserved victory against Northern Ireland. Juan Santiesteban could count on a team packed with first division players, and although he was missing the injured Reyes and Del Horno, their replacements Portillo and Arzu had more than adequate CVs to fill the gap. However despite having most of the ball Spain could not find a way through a well ordered defence, and Morris had little work in the Irish goal.

Having lost their opening game against Greece, a victory was vital at Albacete. However there was a lack of teamwork all round, with Xabi Alonso failing to find his men with his passes and Arteta's long shots off target, and the Irish defenders came closer to scoring in their own net than any Spanish forward. Portillo's only contribution was to get in the way of a Xabi Alonso header which was on it's way into the net just before the break, and the teams went in at half time all square.

The second half was even worse, and only Riera caused any problems, hitting the outside of the post with one effort and bringing a full stretch save out of Morris later on. Fittingly then the only goal came from his free kick, a defender heading it back onto the bar and the rebound hitting Capaldi on the side of the head and entering the net. It was a stroke of luck that keeps their hopes alive, although they will have to do better from now on in they are to reach the finals in Portugal in two years time.