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Canales strikes late to send Spain through

Poland 0-1 Spain
Sergio Canales came off the bench and scored a late winner which booked Spain a play-off berth as one of the best runners-up.

Teenager Sergio Canales hit Spain's late winner
Teenager Sergio Canales hit Spain's late winner ©Sportsfile

Real Madrid CF youngster Sergio Canales booked Spain a place in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-offs with a cleverly worked set-piece winner against Poland.

Canales emerged from the bench at the start of the second half and secured the three points for Luis Milla's side with five minutes remaining when Thiago Alcántara, after feigning a shot, lifted a free-kick over the wall for the 19-year-old to strike his second goal in as many games. Canales had been on target in Spain's 2-1 defeat of the Netherlands, winners of Group 4, on Thursday and these successive victories left Milla's team with 19 points from eight matches, securing their place in Friday's draw as one of the four best runners-up.

After a quiet first half, Spain stepped up a gear following Canales's introduction for Daniel Parejo. They had chances to score before the late breakthrough but Poland goalkeeper Michał Gliwa made a series of fine saves to foil Bojan Krkić, captain Javi Martínez and Juan Mata during a spell of pressure before and after the hour-mark. Poland's defeat was their fifth and forced them to settle for fourth place with only Liechtenstein beneath them.

Milla said: "It was a difficult match because we knew Poland can play at a good level. We created many chances but failed to score. I trusted the players until the last few minutes and they proved they can win."