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Spain's free-kick trickery flummoxes Bulgaria

Bulgaria 1-2 Spain
Two skilfully-worked set pieces left Spain within sight of the last eight, with the hosts resigned to being eliminated following the Group A defeat.

Highlights: Bulgaria 1-2 Spain
Highlights: Bulgaria 1-2 Spain

• Two stylish set pieces gave Santi Denia's side a first win in Group A
• Tonislav Yordanov on target for Bulgaria after a goalkeeping blunder
• Bulgaria out; Spain need one more point to secure a quarter-final place
• Next matches: Austria v Bulgaria, Croatia v Spain (Tuesday)

Spain are closing in on the UEFA European Under-17 Championship quarter-finals following a 2-1 win against hosts Bulgaria, with an improved second-half showing bringing their first Group A win.

Mario Stamatov's wayward cross landed on Alejandro Santomé's crossbar, and Georgi Rusev raced through the heart of defence to test the goalkeeper soon afterwards, only for Spain to take the lead against the run of play on 11 minutes. In a well-choreographed move from a free-kick, Fran Villalba fed Carles Aleñá, who released Kuki with an elegant touch, and the Málaga CF forward finished from 12 metres.

Daniel Naumov then made a fine save to deny Kuki, and Spain custodian Santomé did well to keep out an Asen Chandarov volley at the othe end, but Bulgaria got the goal they deserved on 35 minutes. Santomé failed to control a back pass, inviting Yordanov to put the ball into the unguarded net.

Santi Denia's side were not downhearted, and roared into the second half; Villalba went close, then Alex Martin's header spun just wide of Naumov's left post. The goalkeeper was on call to block Dani Olmo's angled shot, but on 47 minutes, Spain got their winner, Aleñá picking out the unmarked Villalba from a free-kick, and the Valencia CF man making it 2-1 with a low shot.

It might have got worse for Bulgaria, as Carles Pérez and Alex Martin both shot against the post for Spain, but the hosts' last chance of salvaging their campaign passed as Rusev failed to find the finishing touch in a goalmouth scramble. They have only pride to play for against Austria on Tuesday.

Reaction
Aleksandar Dimitrov, Bulgaria coach
Unfortunately, we are out. We gave our best. We had a good first half and we had our chances, then Spain dominated possession in the second half, and it became very difficult. They were better than us. We have to play for pride in the last game against Austria. We played much better than we did in the first game against Croatia, and I believe these players will continue to get better.

Santi Denia, Spain coach
This game helped the lads to realise that at a competition like this, you have to work very hard for every victory. This is the very highest level, but by working hard and sticking together as a team you can achieve your objectives. The atmosphere today was great – the Bulgarian fans clearly came out in force to support their team. It's fantastic too for the development of the players to be able to experience an atmosphere like this - playing in front of over 9,000 spectators is something they'll remember all their lives.