Holders Spain outclassed the Netherlands with a comfortable 3-0 win to top Group B of the U21 Euros in Petach-Tikva.
Alvaro Morata netted his third goal in three games in the competition with a simple finish to put Julen Lopetegui’s side in front, before Isco – targeted by a host of top European sides this summer – showed his class with a sublime dinked finish and substitute Alvaro Vazquez added a third late on.
Both sides came into the match with six points already on the board and their progression assured to the semi-finals and Spain, who have still yet to concede a goal in the tournament, will now take on Norway. The Netherlands, meanwhile, face a trickier encounter with Italy in the last four.
Spain had relied on two late Morata goals to secure back-to-back victories earlier in the tournament, while the Netherlands had been in free-scoring form, netting eight goals against Germany and Russia respectively. In the group's other game, Germany recorded their first points of the campaign with a 2-1 win over Russia with both sides ruled out before the day's double-header.
The Netherlands coach Cor Pot made sweeping changes to the side that started in the 5-1 win over Russia with Chelsea’s Patrick van Aanholt slotting in at left back, while Spain were captained by Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara as both countries showed the strength of their respective squads.
In what was a tepid opening period, each side enjoyed spells of possession at the back without threatening in the final third in what was a very slow tempo before the game began to open up with Spain dominating the play.
The first clear-cut chance of the game fell to Florian Jozefzoon as the Dutchman was put through on goal by Tonny Vilhena, but he proceeded to scuff his effort wide as Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea - who was in inspired form throughout - sprinted out to pressure him into a rushed shot.
Morata almost put Spain in front with a devilish curled shot which drifted agonisingly wide of the far post after jinking inside from the left, but he put that right in the 26th minute as he tapped home from close range courtesy of a defence-splitting pass from Pablo Sarabia.
The Netherlands should have drawn level just five minutes later as Berridi Martinez crucially slipped inside the Spain box and was very nearly punished but for a fine stop from De Gea as Mike van der Hoorn failed to find the back of the net from six yards out, squandering a glorious opportunity to equalise.
The defender was ruthlessly punished within seconds as Isco doubled Spain’s lead: the 21-year-old got in behind the Dutch defence before showing real composure to chip the ball clinically beyond a helpless Marco Bizot.
Pot sent his Netherlands side out early for the second half, while Lopetegui was forced to make an early change after the restart as Ignacio Camacho failed to run off an injury and had to be replaced by Asier Illarramendi.
A moment of magic from Memphis Depay almost reduced the deficit just before the hour mark as the striker got a free kick from 25 yards out to swerve viciously very late, and De Gea made a very fine fingertip save to deflect the ball against the crossbar.
Isco was replaced by Vazquez to give the star a rest, and within seconds of coming onto the pitch his replacement forced Bizot into a distinguished reflex stop with an incisive run and shot.
De Gea denied substitute Adam Maher with a brilliant one-handed save in the final minute of the match, and again a missed opportunity from the Dutch was swiftly followed by a slick goal at the other end as Sarabia provided Vazquez with a simple finish to round off an exemplary team performance.
It was a convincing victory for Spain, who remain firm favourites to retain their title in Israel with a last-four match against Norway now awaiting Lopetegui’s side, while the Netherlands will have to respond against Italy.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Isco – Spain: De Gea deserves recognition for a string of fine saves, but it was the invention and creativity of the irrepressible Isco that provided the cutting edge in the final third for Spain.
Spain U21: De Gea 8, Carvajal 7, Alvaro 6, Martinez 6, Nacho 6, Sarabia 7, Camacho 6, Muniain 7, Isco 8, Morata 8, Thiago 7. Subs: Illarramendi 7, Muniesa 6, Vazquez 7.
Netherlands U21: Bizot 7, Leerdam 6, van der Hoorn 6, Nuytinck 7, Van Aanholt 6, Clasie 7, Vilhena 7, Fer 6, Jozefzoon 7, Hoesen 6, Depay 6. Subs: Maher 6.