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Admir Mehmedi fired Switzerland into their first UEFA European Under-21 Championship final as his extra-time winner in Herning ended the stubborn resistance of the
Mehmedi struck in the 114th minute to set up a final meeting with Spain on Saturday for a Switzerland side who remain unbreached after 390 minutes of football in Denmark. It was a spectacular way to decide a match of few clear chances, the forward cutting across Jan Chramosta and arrowing in a shot from 25 metres that bounced over the outstretched hand of Tomáš Vaclík and landed in the bottom corner.
Prior to that Xherdan Shaqiri had come closer than anyone to breaking the deadlock with a shot against the post and nobody could begrudge the Swiss their fourth straight victory in this tournament.
Shaqiri offered a statement of Switzerland's intent after five minutes when picking up the ball in the centre circle and running at the Czech rearguard, stepping inside Marek Suchý before shooting wide. The playmaker's quickly taken free-kick then put Fabian Frei clear on the left side of the box and his low ball was almost turned into his own net by the stretching Ondřej Mazuch.
Those early openings proved misleading, though. The Swiss back line had gone through the group stage unscathed while the Czechs were the most miserly team in qualifying and a cagey affair unfolded with the two defences on top.
Czech coach Jakub Dovalil stuck with Libor Kozák as his lone front man, ignoring the claims of his scoring substitutes against England, Chramosta and Tomáš Pekhart, yet the No9 cut an isolated figure. Only twice did the Czechs threaten before the break, Ondřej Čelůstka heading wide from a corner before Bořek Dočkal flashed a low shot off target.
Half-time came with neither goalkeeper having made a save and Kozák wasted the opportunity to change that statistic shortly after the restart, slicing wide when freed on the right of the Swiss area by Dočkal's ball over the opposition defence.
That was Kozák's last contribution of note, Pekhart taking his place in the 63rd minute. The big striker was soon involved in creating a half-chance as he laid back Milan Černý's cross to Lukáš Vácha but the latter, playing at right-back on his return from suspension, failed to trouble Yann Sommer with his shot.
At the other end, full-back Philippe Koch got forward to supply a couple of dangerous crosses, the second headed just wide by Innocent Emeghara albeit after a Swiss infringement. Pierluigi Tami's men were knocking more loudly on the door as the end of normal time approached. Mehmedi had a shot smothered by Vaclík from a tight angle and then, with 89 minutes on the clock, Shaqiri unleashed a fierce low strike from 30 metres that beat the goalkeeper but not the far post.
Switzerland remained on top at the start of extra time, Vaclík sticking out a hand to foil the onrushing Emeghara. The Czechs threatened too only to see Swiss bodies block the way of headers from Chramosta and Čelůstka and a Černý drive, all in quick succession.
Pushing forward alongside substitute Mario Gavranović, Medmedi finally found a way through and more goals might have followed, with Gavranović denied by Vaclík and Václav Kadlec looping a header just wide for a Czech outfit who could yet grab the consolation prize of an Olympic ticket in their play-off with Belarus on Saturday.
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