Sergio Asenjo believed a change of approach had paid off after coming off the bench to save two France penalties and take Spain into the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final for the second season in succession.
The Real Valladolid CF goalkeeper was ever-present in Spain's Elite round campaign but lost his place to Felipe Ramos for the finals, only for the latter to sustain an ankle injury when landing awkwardly 63 minutes into the semi-final in Pasching on Tuesday night, presenting Sergio with an opportunity he went on to grasp with both hands. Saves from Kévin Monnet-Paquet and Quentin Othon in the shoot-out secured progress, and Sergio revealed a new strategy had reaped rewards, telling uefa.com: "I stood still for France's first two penalties and they scored both, so I tried moving along the line for the third – and I saved it. It worked once so I tried it again, and it worked again."
Having sat out the first three matches in Austria and found himself on the bench again for the semi-final, the 18-year-old might have been forgiven for allowing his conversation to wander, but instead he was impressive from the first minute, producing fine saves from Malaury Martin and Othon to force extra time and, ultimately, penalties. "It's always a bit strange to be on the bench but the most important thing is the team does well," he explained. "I was ready to come on and I did well I think. Of course I'd love to play in the final but I wish Felipe well. It would be good to get that chance, I'm always ready to help the team."
One player who definitely will not feature against Greece at the Linzer Stadion on Friday night is midfielder Javier Martínez, who picked up his second caution of the finals against France, but the Spain captain accepted his fate with stoicism. "It's a pity for me but there's been lots of players this has happened to in the past," he told uefa.com. "Playing in the final would have been great but I'm just unlucky this time. More importantly, it's great to be there again – it's a historic achievement for us."
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