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Thiago inspires Spain to victory
Thiago Alcantara inspired Spain Under-21s to European Championship glory, with the reported Manchester United target hitting a hat-trick as Italy were defeated 4-2 in Jerusalem.
The 22-year-old Barcelona midfielder has been regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford and saw his considerable stock rise further as Spain stylishly disposed of the country of his birth. Alcantara, part of the Spain side that won the tournament in Denmark two years ago, headed home his first after just six minutes, but Italy were quickly level through a fine Ciro Immobile goal.
Spain regained the lead through Alcantara in the 31st minute, before the son of Brazilian 1994 World Cup winner Mazinho completed his hat-trick with a penalty seven minutes later. Manchester City target Isco added to Alcantara's treble in the second half and, despite a nervy ending following a strike from Liverpool's Fabio Borini, La Rojita retained their title in style.
Spain dominated from the outset and took an early lead through Alcantara, who headed home an Alvaro Morata cross from close range.
It was an impressive goal but one that was soon cancelled out as Giulio Donati played a wonderfully-weighted ball from the back, which Immobile controlled before dinking over Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Italy's biggest threat was coming on the counter-attack and opposite number De Gea was forced into an important 24th-minute stop to keep the scores level. Borini played a looping ball over to Alessandro Florenzi, who flicked the ball over Marc Bartra's head before seeing his volley pushed over by the United goalkeeper.
Spain soon went in front for a second time, though. Koke picked out Alcantara and Francesco Bardi was unable to keep out the Barcelona midfielder's fierce half volley.
They extended their lead further as half-time approached after Cristian Tello was brought down by Donati's trailing leg. Alcantara stepped up to the mark and struck home, completing his hat-trick and putting Spain in the driving seat.
Isco came close under pressure from the Italian defender, but got the goal he craved in the 66th minute. Vasco Regini brought down Martin Montoya in the box and Isco fired the resulting spot-kick home.
It was no less than Spain deserved but they were forced to endure a nervy ending as they let their foot off the gas. Borini struck a wonderful 20-yard effort past De Gea to reduce the deficit, with Regini firing over shortly afterwards.
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