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Conte strikes as France end Spain's reign

Spain 1-2 France (aet)
Les Petits Bleus recovered from José Rodriguez's penalty to eliminate the holders thanks to goals from Yassine Benzia and, in extra time, Antoine Conte.

France's Antoine Conte celebrates after his goal ended Spain's title defence
France's Antoine Conte celebrates after his goal ended Spain's title defence ©Sportsfile

A determined defensive effort helped France end Spain's two-year reign as UEFA European Under-19 Championship winners thanks to a composed extra-time finish from centre-back Antoine Conte in Kaunas.

Spain had beaten France in the last four in 2012 and struck first again here, captain José Rodriguez giving them a 27th-minute advantage from the penalty spot. Yassine Benzia swiftly levelled, however, and though Spain controlled the second half they were unable to fashion a winner. France produced a classic counter-punch in the 105th minute when Conte, who had conceded the penalty, capitalised on some uncertain defending to take the two-time winners into a first final since 2010.

Neither team took too many risks in the early stages with France the first to threaten as Anthony Martial cut inside down the left, goalkeeper Rubén Blanco down sharply to block, yet it was Spain who broke through. Conte felled Álvaro Vadillo and José Rodriguez thumped past Quentin Beunardeau from the spot.

The lead lasted less than two minutes. Corentin Jean's superb pass split the Spanish defence and Benzia slid his shot under Rubén Blanco; the striker would go on to test the goalkeeper regularly. One free-kick was tipped over at full stretch while another fierce low drive was parried, Benzia also heading straight at Blanco when well placed.

As the second half began Borja López twice went close from left-wing corners provided by Vadillo, who then raced on to a low cross from the recalled Héctor Bellerín only to steer wide. Pablo Iñiguez's fierce shot was blocked although France might have snatched victory at the end of normal time had Adrien Hunou been able to keep his shot down.

Les Petits Bleus had an even bigger opening eight minutes into extra time as Benzia again drew defenders to him and slid a square pass into substitute Lenny Nangis; Blanco blocked crucially. There was, however, nothing the goalkeeper could do when Spain twice failed to clear Kevin Rodrigues' cross and Conte kept his head to direct a low shot just inside the post and take France into Thursday's final against Serbia.