James Trafford was the hero for England as his 98th-minute penalty save saw the under-21s beat ill-disciplined Spain 1-0 in the final to win their first European title in 39 years.
Abel Ruiz’s spot kick was saved by Burnley’s goalkeeper in almost the last kick of the game, prompting jubilation from the England bench.
A lucky goal from Curtis Jones put them ahead in stoppage time of the first half, with the Young Lions cruising to victory. The Liverpool midfielder diverted Cole Palmer’s free-kick after hitting the wall during first-half stoppage time.
England’s celebration resulted in a massive brawl between both sets of players and the benches, which led to assistant manager Ashley Cole being red carded and ordered to march from the touchline.
And despite a goal from Spain’s Ruiz being ruled out for offside by VAR – a close-range header bounced wide of La Rosa’s best chance – England were in the lead until the sixth minute of second-half injury time. was relatively untouched.
VAR ruled that Ruiz was fouled by Lévy Colville, but the Spain striker saw his spot kick saved by Trafford – whose late save ensured that he did not concede a goal throughout the tournament.
england match rating
England: Trafford (9); Garner (8), Harwood-Bellis (8), Colville (8), Aarons (7); Palmer (8), Gomes (7), Jones (8), Smith Rowe (7); Gordon (7), Gibbs-White (7)
sub: Maduke (7), Skip (6), Archer (6), Elliott (N/A), Doyle (N/A)
Player of the match: james trafford
Red cards for Morgan Gibbs-White and Antonio Blanco, who were substituted in the wake of saving a penalty, meant a sour final ended with 30 fouls, 11 yellow cards and four red cards handed out to players and coaches on the bench. Happened.
But the best man of the moment was Trafford, who revealed after the game that he had predicted he would save a penalty on the morning of the game.
He said, “I told everyone this morning I was going to save a pen.” “When he got the penalty, I knew I was going to save it.”
When asked about the team’s record of not conceding a single goal in the entire tournament, the goalkeeper said, “This record means a lot to us.
“We believed that no one could score against us and we did.”
how many mature lions won the title
Playing in their first U21 final in 14 years and with Gareth Southgate watching in the stands, England got off to a bright start with Anthony Gordon at the center of two big attacks in the first six minutes.
A speeding effort was well saved by the Newcastle winger, with Palmer unable to tap in the rebound. Seconds later, Gordon was dropped to the left and unselfishly chipped past Morgan Gibbs-White, who got no touch for another simple tap-in.
The two chances told a lot about England’s intent, but Spain progressed in the game and maintained 60 per cent possession in the first half. Aitor Paredes fired a corner wide at the near post before Sergio Gomez and Alex Baena had good chances at Trafford’s far post.
With the half drawing to a close, England stepped up and hit the woodwork as Colville’s header bounced straight off Palmer’s free-kick.
But it was another set-piece from the Man City player who headed in the England opener. Palmer’s free-kick bounced off Ducking Jones, hit the wall and fluttered past Arnaud Tenis.
Palmer went on to celebrate with the England bench, only for the opposite camp to react with fury. A brawl led to Colville and Oihan Sensett being booked – before England assistant manager Cole and another member of the Spain coaching staff were given their marching orders from the touchline.
At the restart both sides had calmed down and Spain thought they had a chance to equalize when Ruiz scored from Spain’s free-kick. But VAR would save England as it helped the officials rule it out for offside.
Max Aarons and Jones forced Tainas to stop in quick succession before Ruiz missed Spain’s best chance of the game – nodding in from inside the area when found completely unmarked.
Frustrated by fouls and bookings, the Spaniards kept their composure and almost grabbed the second when substitute Noni Maduke was denied a goal difference by Tenas.
But there was more drama as Ruiz went down under a challenge from Colville and referee Espen Asques called for VAR to award Spain a last-gasp spot kick.
Ruiz went right but Trafford were awarded the penalty as the new £19m Burnley goalkeeper pulled off a priceless double save.
More touchline frustration after a penalty miss saw Antonio Blanco and Gibbs-White sent off for second yellow cards – but it was the England bench who emerged victorious after the full-time whistle.
‘The whole team deserves credit for the shutout’
England Under-21 captain Taylor Harwood-Bellis:
“With our history, there was a lot of pressure on us to perform well, and I’m speaking for all the boys and the coaching staff, not just me. It’s one big family and it feels like a club. Every Somebody deserves it and we will celebrate together.
“Traff will get a lot of credit, which he totally deserves, but it depends on the whole team. Even the players who didn’t play a lot of minutes but played against Germany, who were a Top team and country, so it is not easy to keep a clean sheet against them.
“The other boys were pushing us when we were starting out and we were pushing them when they were starting out, and that’s something we’re really proud of.
“I thought we deserved to win. The whole group; the togetherness, the intensity in training and everyone wants to be here. There is no one player who has dragged the group down, even the boys who are not playing They have also been the best .place and that is something you cannot buy.
“We talk about how we forget about sports when we’re in a hotel, we play sports and entertain each other and there’s no one you can sit with and have a chat or a coffee. And of course, all 23 players matter of quality. But for me, it’s about the togetherness of the team.”