FOX Sports Insider
Teenage sensation Salma Paralluelo produced magic from the substitutes’ bench to send Spain through to the Women’s World Cup semifinals for the first time ever.
Paralleulo scored a brilliant extra-time winner in Wellington, New Zealand, to guide her team past the Netherlands, 2-1, in the most entertaining game of the tournament so far. Her strike created history — it was the first time a player in her teens had scored in extra time since the tournament began in 1991.
[Spain vs. Netherlands highlights: Spain wins 2-1 in extra time]
The 19-year-old, who plays her club soccer for Barcelona, was introduced to replace Alba Redondo after 71 minutes and did not take long to make an impact.
It was Paralluelo’s attempted cross that struck the hand of Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt, setting up Mariona Caldentey to put her team ahead from the penalty spot with 81 minutes gone.
However, there was plenty more drama brewing.
Van der Gragt redeemed herself spectacularly in stoppage time, grabbing a remarkable equalizer with an outstanding right-foot strike after having been thrown into the attack in a desperate move by coach Andries Jonker.
Spain vs. Netherlands highlights
It was almost like two different games. Spain was hugely dominant during regulation, controlling possession and carving out repeated chances to score as the midfield marshaled by Aitana Bonmati wreaked havoc.
Esther Gonzalez thought she had put Spain ahead in the first half only for her effort to be ruled out by VAR, but the Netherlands felt hard done by when Lineth Beerensteyn was bumped over in the box, a penalty was awarded — but was overturned on review.
Once van der Gragt equalized, with Spain having already made defensive-minded subs to try to protect the lead, the game changed.
The Netherlands, which battled to a 1-1 tie with the USA in Group E earlier in the tournament, started to press forward in numbers, and Beerensteyn had no fewer than three clear-cut chances to put the 2019 runner-up into the lead.
The “World Cup NOW” crew reacts to Spain reaching the semis
In the end, the winner came somewhat against the run of play. With Bonmati replaced earlier, Spain brought on superstar Alexia Putellas in extra time, despite her ongoing injury concerns. Yet it was the youngster, Paralluelo, who struck the decisive blow.
Seconds after a Beerensteyn chance had gone begging at the other end, Spain broke with speed and intensity. Paralluelo stayed onside and set her sights on goal, cutting inside and firing the ball past goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar, before sprinting toward the corner flag to celebrate with her joyous teammates.
And so Spain moves forward, looking dangerous, vulnerable, and fascinatingly unpredictable, all at the same time.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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