Spain made heavy work of beating ten-man Uruguay in their quarter-final in Kaduna, losing a 3-1 lead and requiring a penalty shoot-out to finally book their place in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009. The Uruguayans showed tremendous spirit fighting back from the deficit, but in the end it was a road too far for the homeward-bound La Celeste.
Spain looked in firm control from the start of the contest, Borja's sliding effort after five minutes going just wide of the near post after a teasing cross from Isco. Two minutes later, Iker Muniain had his wicked snap-shot from 20 yards saved by Uruguayan goalkeeper Salvador Ichazo.
However, in spite of La Rojita's early dominance, it was the gritty South Americans who opened the scoring. After Sergi Gomez committed a silly foul on the edge of the box, Adrian Luna became the beneficiary of a heavy deflection off the head of Borja in the Spanish defensive wall and made it 1-0 on the ten-minute mark.
The Spaniards roared right back up the other end and were on level pegging just six minutes later. Federico Saurrate hauled down Pablo Sarabia in the area and Isco made no mistake from the spot with a perfectly-taken penalty. It looked like the talented Europeans would go on to run up the score after that, but they were hampered by some profligate finishing as the first half ended all-square.
First, a header from the wide-open Isco smacked off the base of the post. Then Sergi Roberto saw his penalty kick saved well by Ichazo, after Saurrate was late on a tackle again and received his marching orders for a second yellow card.
The South Americans could not quite keep up with the pace in the second period. In the space of just two minutes, Atletico Madrid man Borja had made it 3-1 for the Spaniards. In the 49th minute Sarabia laid the ball on for the burly striker, who made no mistake from six yards out with a deft finish into the top corner. Then, just a minute later, Borja broke through the defence and coolly dispatched a fine finish past the despairing Ichazo.
The Uruguayans managed to give themselves a fighting chance in the 71st minute when Gabriel Mezquida battled hard and managed to strain and stretch to poke home for a goal. Gomez thought he had cleared the ball before it crossed the line, but the linesman and the referee were having none of it. The goal signalled the start of an almighty fight-back as, with only six minutes to go in the game, Sebastian Gallegos, who plays his club football in Spain, drew level after keeping his cool and hitting inside the back post to force extra-time.
Spain rediscovered a bit of their form in the additional 30 minutes, moving the ball around well and creating chances through Borja, Isco and substitute Jordi Amat. But the Uruguayans continued to play on with raw emotion and kept the scores tangled through to the end, forcing a penalty shoot-out. After both sides scored their first two spot-kicks, Mezquida and Jose Laureiro were both off the mark and signalled the end of Uruguay's brave fight. Spain will now take on Nigeria in their semi-final in Lagos.