Lightning struck twice for Spain as Álvaro Morata stepped off the bench and for the second game running won the holders three points. Julen Lopetegui's men looked set to be frustrated by a stubborn defensive display from Germany until Morata, a 72nd-minute replacement for Rodrigo, broke clear and scored the goal that not only secured Spain's place in the semi-finals but also confirmed Gemany's elimination after a second straight defeat in Group B.
Morata's record at U21 level is now two goals from two appearances. Against Russia he scored after 82 minutes; here he left it until the 86th minute before securing Spain's second 1-0 win of these finals. Beating Antonio Rüdiger out on the German right, he drove into the box and fired in a low shot that clipped the foot of goalkeeper Bernd Leno as it flew past him at the near post.
Although Germany featured two changes in the forward positions – Kevin Volland led the attack in place of Pierre-Michelle Lasogga while Christian Clemens replaced the injured Peniel Mlapa – we saw little of their attacking potential as Spain picked up where they had left off against Russia.
Koke, brought in for Iker Muniain, flashed a shot over following a half-cleared corner and two big let-offs followed. Oliver Sorg gave the ball away to Thiago Alcántara, who so nearly punished him with a shot which rebounded off the far post. In the 26th minute Spain came again as Isco wriggled away from Sebastian Rode and, with a delightful reverse pass, sent Rodrigo clear but though he rounded Leno, he could only find the side-netting.
At the other end, Clemens shot a whisker wide but German incursions were few and far between. Instead, Spain kept finding crossing positions and they almost profited early in the second half when Isco broke away down the right. Although Tello failed to connect with his cross, the ball fell to Thiago but he blazed over.
The breakthrough nearly arrived after 59 minutes when Asier Illarramendi fired just wide. If that was close, the crowd really came alive during an extraordinary sequence of events inside the Germany box as Leno spilled a shot but made amends with point-blank blocks to stop Rodrigo and Iñigo Martínez. Germany nearly capitalised with an immediate counter – Marc Bartra denying Volland – but, once again, it would prove Spain's night.